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Posts Tagged ‘avrt’

As I expected ,  my earlier algorithm “An Idiot’s approach to tachy-arrhythmias” has  elicited  mixed reactions  .Some  EPs calling it a dud while few  physicians termed it awesome . Here is  a follow up .

Heart rate of a tachycardia is the most neglected parameter by physicians .  They are often seen spending  hours together for decoding  arrhythmia , splitting the brains   for P wave  location , VA conduction, Fusion beats etc .Finally they end up  either administering  Amiodarone a broad spectrum anti arrhythmic agent or DC shock.

Here is an unusual algorithm  for arriving at a diagnosis in all tachy-arrhythmias  based only on heart rate and the width of he qrs complex.

(Click over the table for high resolution image )

approach to cardiac arrhythmias narrow qrs vs wide qrs brugada wellens criteria

General principles in diagnosis of tachycardia

Narrow  qrs tachycardias.

90 % rule : If regular It is sinus tachy if irregular it is A-FIB . Take some efforts to r/o sinus  tachycardia . (In children and young adult it can be extremely difficult at times )* Please note : Sinus tachycardia can show some irregularity due to sinus arrhythmia and  frequent  APDs and JPDS . Further at  fast rates P may fuse with T it should not be confused with  A-fib .

Wide qrs tachycardia

Common things  are common , if  you sight a large animal with a huge trunk  in a Kenyan safari ,  it is most likely to be an  elephant and not a Dinosaur !  Please diagnose VT  when you encounter wide qrs tachycardia by default especially when the BP drops  !

  Management issues

It  would be  foolish to split our heads for decoding an arrhythmia when a patient is unstable .Any hemo-dyanmic unstable tachycardia needs DC shock . (Synchronized will be better unless it is dire emergency )There are very few arrhythmia where DC shock is contraindicated   ( MAT/Dig toxicity/Underlying sinus node dysfunction )

Only if the patient is hemo-dynamically  very much stable   the  physicians  have enough time to  confuse themselves  and the real  ordeal begins .Please remember  the 5 arrhythmias  constitute 98  % of all known tachy-arrhytmia . So where ever  you practice ,  whether  in remote Nigerian village  or  sophisticated  Cleveland  university hospital , when you are  confronted with a tachycardia  the diagnosis  should be one among the  following  five  !)

  1. Sinus tachycardia .
  2. AF/A-fib
  3. Atrial tachycardia  with  or without blocks
  4. ventricular tachycardia /VF
  5. AVNR/AVRT with or without aberrancy

All  other tachy-arrhythmiaa  are  largely  academic !

Regarding  drugs

Knowing the mechanism of  arrhythmia genesis  is less important  at bed side . They are  triggered , sustained, and maintained by either functional or structural component .Ionic basis operates in every arrhythmia  , but it is the anatomical  substrate that maintains it .This happens in only diseased heart.The only point worth remembering regarding mechanism of arrhythmia  genesis  is ,  automatic and focal tachycardias  will not respond to DC shock . All other can be termed some form of re-entry . Micro reentry  for all practical purposes behave like  triggered  activity. Ischemic and electrolytic VTs are primarily ionic based and often polymorphic.Structural VT are commonly mono-morphic. Any VT just prior to degeneration to VF become polymorphic

Every patient with cardiac arrhythmia should be checked for hypoxia,acidois , electrolyte defect or exposure to any  pro arrhythmic drugs. (The commonest  cause of tachycardia in any  IMCU , is inotropic induced (dopamine /doubtamine ) tachycardia .

We  have  5  pharmacological options

  1. Blocking  adrenergic  receptors(IV Esmolol, Metoprolol)
  2. Blocking calcium channel (Dilitazem,Verapamil)
  3. Blocking potassium channel  (Amiodarone  ,Sotolol Adenosine  to a cetian extent )
  4. Blocking sodium channel . ( Procainamide , Lignocaine (Wonder drug almost forgotten now ! ) Flecanide Mexilitene etc)
  5. Digoxin ,Adenosine  magnesium are special  anti-arrhythmic  agent which  has very useful role in certain specific situations (Magnesium -Torsades/Polymorphic VT / Adenosine in LVOT/RVOT VT etc)

General principle is ventricular arrhythmias  are blocked successfully  by sodium or potassium blockade  Atrial and functional tachycardia are blocked by calcium or adrenegic blockade  .Of course,  there would be  some degree of overlap  when the arrhythmia  origin  hovers  around the junction  on either side of the AV  ring . This is basis of verapamil sensitive VT .Clusters of  calcium  channels are scattered  in the junctional  region

Refractory tachycardia

  1. Consider ablation  in AVNRT/AVRT
  2. ICD +Drugs  in VT
  3. Ablate and  Pace(Some A-fibs)
  4. Ablate and ICD (Some  incessant VTs)
  5. Surgery in minority

In AVNRT/AVRT 90 % success can be achieved  in most EP centers .VT ablation  is still a complex process  with  success rate around 60 % ICDs  are indicated in all recurrent VTs except incessant forms .(Where the battery will deplete within a month !) Surgical cure (Maze etc  ) is possible in selected few while undergoing mitral valve surgery.Contrary  to the modern scientific  mood ,  I can ay with conviction most A-fibs can be managed medically except a fraction will require pulmonary vein ablation / isolation .

Final message

Mastering the field of of  cardiac  arrhythmias ,  though  appear a daunting task ,  it does not  require   immense  sense  to understand real world problems are  only a  few and can be tackled in a simplistic manner !

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Identifying the P wave is the key to decode  any  narrow QRS  tachycardia . Though the  the relationship to  p and  qrs is vita ,  many times it is  not  easy to  relate them.More easily one  may  get  a  clue to the mechanism by analysing   P wave timing .This is the basis of calling narrow qrs tachycardia as short RP and long RP.

Wonder   . . .  why  the  relation “P to R” became  “R to P” here !

Since  in the   common narrow qrs tachycardias  AVNRT/AVRT  ,  atria  activates  the atria  in a  retrograde manner , we look  for the relationship of qrs complex on subsequent P wave . Hence the interval between R to P become the focus.

In other words RP interval indicates retrograde  conduction property of AV tissue .

If it is slow the P wave will be well separated from QRS .

If it is fast it will be close to QRS complex .

If it is ultra fast as in some AVNRT ,it can fall within the qrs complex and completely invisible .

(The so called  r’ prime in classical AVNRT is nothing but a distorted p wave on the terminal qrs complex.)

Based on  RP interval  the following classification is used (List is incomplete)

Short RP Tachycardia

  • AVNRT (Slow-Fast )
  • AVRT

Long  RP tachycardia

  • Atypical AVNRT(Fast -slow)
  • Atrial tachycardia*
  • Sinus tachycardia*
  • SA nodal re-entry*
  • Some forms of AVRT

* Please note ,  here the P wave is not determined by the preceding qrs unlike other tachycardia in the list.

What is the  cut off point to call it is Short RP /Long RP ?

It is arbitrary . Following may help

If RP interval > PR interval it is long RP.

If the absolute RP interval is >  100  ms  with the heart rate of > 160 it would  generally  Indicate a long RP tachycardia .

The timing  of  retrograde P can be very complex than we believe  as the following factors heavily influence it.

  • The autonomic tone
  • Site of retrograde atrial  breakthrough point .
  • Atrial size ,
  • Atrial  refractionaries
  • Effect of drugs
  • Intact-ness of inter atrial conduction
  • Chances of the retrograde atrial activation capturing Internodal pathway

Final message

The P wave location in narrow qrs tachycardia is primarily determined by the retrograde VA  conduction and less  on the antegrade AV conduction  . Looking at the interval between R and P is a  quick way of getting the VA conduction in the bed side.

Once we get an  idea how the VA  circuit  conducts , we can narrow down the possibilities  in  Narrow qrs tachycardias !

Comming  soon

What determines the morphology of retrograde P waves in AVNRT/AVRT ?

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AV nodal reentrant tachycadia(AVNRT) is the commonest mechanism of SVT. It is divided into slow-fast, fast-slow, slow-slow , representing the two limbs of he circuit.

Slow -Slow circuit is  the rarest  type of AVNRT.  It should be appreciated  ,  the scientific validity of  slow-slow circuit is  applicable  only in relative terms . A virtually  similar antegrade and retrograde limbs with identical conduction velocity and refractory  properties  , can neither  initiate  nor  sustain an AVNRT.

Caveat in the definition of slow -slow AVNRT.

Even though ,  we call it   a  slow-slow  tachycardia , one of the limbs need to be faster than the other.  So , every slow -Slow AVNRT in reality will have  two types

  • Slow- Slow ( Still , faster than antegrade slow) mimic a slow-fast physiology
  • Slow( Faster than retograde slow )  -Slow closely mimic typical  fast slow .

Implication for electrophysiologists  and   points of contention for the ablationist !

  • In Slow -Slow AVNRT ablation we do not know exactly ,  which of the slow pathway is being ablated , unless we specifically  analyse  the post ablative  data.
  • Very often it is not done.Every one in the lab is happy , for breaking the tachycardia circuit. Only after the procedure is over , we may realise the tachycardia is not really killed as it finds an alternate highway to complete  the short circuiting of heart.
  • We need to  suspect this type of AVNRT   prior to the  procedure .Electrophysiologist  shall  spend little   more time and a wide area ablation done , in the vicinity  of coronary sinus ostium can be attempted. .

It is not a smart practice to advocate  wide area ablation as a routine protocol in all AVNRT

as it directly  increase the rate of complication >

Final message

A   hurriedly  done slow pathway ablation  which  may  temporarily terminate the AVNRT ,only to recur later as  the retrograde  slow pathway may again form  a substrate  .The area of slow conduction  acts as a turnaround gateway and capture  the  retrograde fast  pathway which  could be  available in plenty in the anterior aspects of AV node  .   (Note : The unablated  slow pathway  now  form the antegrade  circuit )

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Ischemic ventricular tachycardia is a  too well recognised clinical  entity  . But , ischemia triggered atrial arrhythmias are less often encountered .

Does that mean , atria are relatively protected from the effects of ischemia ?

Not really  . . .  It  is possible  it may not be  that rare ,  as we think .

And then ,  the semantics play  a major  role !

Atrial fibrillation  is the commonest supra ventricular  arrhythmia  in human ,  we also know CAD is the leading cause of the AF apart from HT & Cardiomyopathy . So technically , ischemic SVT  is  more common than Ischemic VT ,but we do not call it so !

If we analyse the triggers for AF it is more often hypoxia  (than ischemia )  . . .yes there is huge difference between the two .In the ventricles it is more often ischemia that  trigger a VT.

Atrium is very sensitive to systemic  oxygen saturations especially in elderly and COPD patients. This is the reason we get many of the complex atrial arrhythmias in hypoxic situations ( Ectopic atrial, Multi focal atrial , etc) .These arrhythmias are difficult to control unless oxygen saturation is corrected. While  many of AF episodes are transient and disappear after correction of hypoxia.

If the ventricle also  responds with fibrillation  at times of systemic  hypoxia ,  one can  imagine the disastrous consequence ! God is kind enough , systemic hypoxia per se  rarely trigger a VF ,  though  it can maintain a VT which was initiated by some other mechanism.

So what are the causes of  narrow qrs tachycardia in the coronary setting

Apart from AF ,  Ischemic SVT  can occur in the following situations

  • STEMI -RVMI
  • Atrial infarction -Focal AT -Atrial flutter /AF
  • Post Pericarditis
  • Refractory , ischemic JT (Junctional tacycardia ) in elderly , perioperative , hypoxic patients

*Atrial arrhythmias are very rare during unstable angina for some unknown reasons . Atrial scar induced ischemic focal AT is underdiagnosed.

** Never  diagnose AVNRT /AVRT in a patient   who has an ACS. It is likely you will be 99.9% wrong.

*** Preexcited AVRTS are very rare in elderly CAD patients even in those with a history of SVT  .This is because as the age advances the accessory pathways undergo degeneration either by ischemia or  the wear and tear  and get self ablated .

Many times the associated , HT and diabetes may contribute to the arrhythmia.

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P waves represent atrial depolarisation. The p wave height  and width depends not only the size of the RA and LA but also the site of  origin of atrial  impulse .A normal SA nodal origin of P wave produce the normal shaped p waves.

We know  ectopic  p waves can have a wide variation of morphology.(Fully inverted, partially inverted, slurred, bi phasic, notched, rounded , deformed, etc. The morphology is dictated by the direction of p wave vector and thus it is quite variable in different leads. Further  it is also determined by the inter atrial and intra atrial conduction.So in summary , an ectopic p wave can have any morphology we can think off !

What is isoelctric P waves

It is rather a surprise we have not thought about so long,   like a low voltage QRS ,  a  p wave can also be very low amplitude and it may be entirely isoelectric , which could actually mean the p waves are as good as absent.This can happen in all leads or in few leads. .Atria gets electrically activated but fails to inscribe a p wave .This is termed as isoelectric p waves

The importance of isoelectric p waves

It  can  happen , both  in sinus rhythm  and in ectopic atrial rhythm . Absent p waves should be differentiated form isoelectric p waves. It is typically described in focal atrial rhythm arising from the right side  of  the  inter atrial septal near the   perinodal  tissue.The atrial tachycardias arising from this site are classically have isoelectric p waves in most of the leads especially  V1 .

Other causes of absent p waves

  • Atrial fibrillation

The classical example .in fact here p waves are replaced by fine or coarse fibillatory waves

  • Sinus arrest  plus Junctional rhythm with retrograde VA block

Not all junctional rhythm result in absent p waves .Many record inverted retrograde p if there is VA                            conduction.

  • Sino ventricular conduction .P waves appears  absent in surface ECG. It occurs in hyperkalemia /renal failure is due to high levels of pottassium   which suppress the atrial activity sort of atrial electrical paralysis but still impulse originates in SA node traverses  the inter atrial pathway and reach ventricles.typically P waves are absent or can be termed isolectric.
  • Atrial  stunning following cardioversion

Long standing atrial tacycardias may fail to resume it’s mechanical (or even electrical ) activity after  cardiversion  .If it is electrical stunning the p waves do not immediately appear  but occurs later .In fact this could be termed as failed cardioversion.

* Note  p waves are failed to identified in many of the VTs AVNRTs

Final message

Absent p waves ,  isoelectric p waves , hidden p waves, merged p waves , low voltage p waves , unrecorded p waves,  selective absence of p waves in some leads all can happen in clinical cardiology practice.

One should realise the importance  differentiating   absence of   p waves in the given strip of ECG from failure of p waves to  get recorded by the  ECG machine .This has diagnostic significance.

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