Posts Tagged ‘brugada criteria’

Wide qrs tachycardia often  evoke a   OCD like reaction  among  many  cardiologists (Obsessive compulsive disorder).  Whenever we are given a strip of wide qrs tachycardia  we are compelled to initiate a  conscious or  subconscious debate , whether it is VT  or SVT . Tens of thousands of articles, seminars, CMEs , have been conducted for over 30 years  for  decoding  wide qrs tachycardias  . The fact that the confusion  is still widely prevalent indicate only two things

  1. Either , it is not possible to arrive at a simple fool proof  bed side modality  to confirm either VT or SVT
  2. Or it is a too trivial  electrophysiological   issue  that   need  not be worried about  as we have broad spectrum antiarrhythmics (Like antibiotics ! , where we  rarely  bother about identity of the culprit  bacteria  )

The power of statistics and commonsense have never been applied  in the management this vital cardiac entity  .While a  75% sensitive  exercise  stress test (EST) has a huge following in clinical cardiology , a   99 % sensitive   clinical criteria*  for diagnosing VT is  not respected .

*All wide QRS  tachycardia  in patients with   with history of   CAD/STEMI would be VT

If only we had applied our mind to this article published in 1988 we will never ever have the need to split our hairs for decades.(That too without success !)

In  pursuit of  knowledge , are we often  chasing  an imaginary  issue ?

The cardinal  principle of medicine says

“Diagnosis should precede treatment  whenever possible

But there need to be a correction  in the above statement .  Time , effort , cost involved in arriving at a  diagnosis  should be meaningful .( Needless to say  . . . it should  a correct diagnosis  too ) And if the power of statistics far exceeds the  frivolous scientific data  , street sense can be applied  liberally even though current generation may call it un scientific .

The issue here is  not being  scientific or unscientific , but whether you are right or wrong  . The article  which is quoted here  has a great insight  about the philosophy of VT diagnosis.

The message form this article goes something like this . . .

In the diagnosis of  wide qrs tachycardia , If we apply  the so called scientific principles   the chances  for missing   a real VT is extraordinarily high , while  if you blindly apply common sense and logic you are going to be 90% right .

What a powerful  statement this !  even though it appears  absurd ,  it is absolutely true !

A young physician  should realize the importance of this . Scientific  decoding of arrhythmia  may be an academic  pursuit but in a given patient at bedside  diagnosing by experience and common  logic are  far more productive and accurate. Miss diagnosis of VT was not common prior to 1980s .  It has become a recent phenomenon .

Probably too much of electrophysiology haS  made a simple diagnostic pathway a complex one. When we relied only on commonsense the errors were less . I  have  often observed  fellows  making mistakes quite frequently  while  nurses  were too confident  to call a wide qrs tachycardia   as VT .

Final message

Medical decision making is an art , in fact it is  a “fine art ”   We keep saying this for centuries , still medicine as a  science  easily overtakes medicine as an art. Here comes the problem . Some times (or is it many times ! ) too much of inquisitiveness in the   name of  science  make practice of medicine  complicated and the victims are often the patients !

Let us simplify medicine  . . . let us accept an occasional  bad outcome  . . . for not being 100 % scientific  ! After all  , a million mistakes happen every day in the  pure  scientific  pathway .



Also read Knowledge disease

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Wide qrs tachycardia has a unique place in clinical electrocardiography .It is  a much fancied and glamorous entity for the simple reason , it continues to be the  cardiologist ever solved puzzle .For over three decades of research, clinical debates , symposiums , seminars have effectively failed to take away the uncertainties in decoding the wide  QRS  tachycardia . (Specifically ,  VT vs SVT with aberrancy)

Some wondered , should we really waste our efforts in differentiating the two . In emergencies it never matters , in fact one need  not attempt to do this often futile exercise !

Few dedicated criterias like Brugada etc have helped us .

While the difficulties in differentiating between VT and SVT with aberrancy remain over the decades .A less reported  , but more common issue is  confronting  us .

It is  the big question of  differentiating a  wide  QRS tachycardia from a narrow QRS  tachycardia

wide qrs tachycardia vt svt aberrancy

This  occurs  more often than we realise  ,because we define wide  QRS  tachycardia in a vague manner

  • Normal qrs width between Up to 80 / up to 100 ms acceptable  ?*
  • Narrow qrs tachycardia 80 ms?
  • Wide qrs tachycardia i> 120ms  ?
  • Definitely wide qrs >140msec

* The confusion is mainly because 20ms difference between limb leads and chest leads .

In reality one may not be able to all  tachycardia into narrow or wide .

There is big  overlap zone that need to be labeled a intermediate qrs tachycardia

If we can  triage the tachycardias into three instead of two it may help us arrive  fast  ,  to the  correct diagnosis

Narrow QRS tachycardia ( qrs 80ms)

  • Sinus
  • All svtS (avnrt etc)

Intermediate QRS tachycardia 90-120

  • Most of the SVT with  aberrancy  ( Except antidromic SVTs which are really to wide !)
  • Septal VTs*
  • Fascicular VTs*
  • VT in PPM and ICD /CRT patients **

*  Any VT that arise near the major conducting system of ventricle conduct  fast and hence qrs are relatively narrow.

**These are rare entities where  base line wide QRS getting narrower with the onset of VT . (Ref : http://europace.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/eun254v1)

Wide qrs tachycardia >120ms

  • Most of the genuine VT (Ischemic , myocardial origin)
  • Post MI VTs
  • SVT aberrancy especially AVRT
  • Any SVT with preexisting BBB
  • Marked electrolytic disorders

Unresolved questions

  • Which lead we should look for measuring the width of qrs ?
  • Should we take the narrowest qrs or widest qrs or should we take the average ?
  • Should we calculate how much the tachycardia has widened the qrs from the baseline  width of a given patient ?  Is it not possible , what is wide for some may be normal for another !
  • If  there is no isoelectric line  and ST segment  blends with qrs complex  how to mark end of qrs ?
  • If  limb leads show a narrow qrs and chest leads shows  wide qrs what is the significance  ?
  • In precardial leads  if one lead alone shows a narrow qrs , what is the significance ?
  • Can a narrow qrs VT conduct  with aberrancy and making it  really  wide ?

Final message

When we are  able to solve   complex electrophysiological  problems  , we must also realise  even   simple  tasks can be demanding in medicne ! It is proposed to create a  new  group “Intermediate QRS tachycardia “that can help solve the issue where we have difficulty in labeling these  tachycardias which fall  in the  greyzone .We can try &  apply the modern EP based VT criterias  to this group and find out the hidden truths !

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