Posts Tagged ‘heart rhythm’

Ventricular tachycardia as a group , constitute a major  group of cardiac arrhythmias. Most of the VTs are managed  by cardioversion  followed by medical management.  Few require , implantable defibrillator when there is severe LV dysfucntion .(ICD) Localising the origin of  VT and subsequent , ablation is the treatment of choice in some of the  patients  with VT.

Traditionally VT was thought to arise fro the endocardial aspects of myocardium. Now  we realise many times VT originate from the epicardial aspects of  ventricle.

Epicardial VT : Defintion

Epicardial ventricular tachycardia (VT) is defined as VT in which the critical sites of the reentrant circuit (or the ‘sites of origin’) are located exclusively in the subepicardial tissue, as shown by entrainment manoeuvres or VT that is terminated within 10 s with standard radiofrequency (RF) pulses, or both.  E. SOSA,M. SCANAVACCA et  all  http://www.springerlink.com/content/w608142674154tp5/ 


 How to recognise epicardial origin of VT by surface ECG ?

  • Terminal S wave in V2 and q in lead 1 strongly suggest VT of sub epicardial origin.
  • Pseudodelta wave 
  • Intrinsicoid deflection time of  85 ms
  • RS complex duration of  >120msec

Suggest   epicardial origin of the VTs.

Important Links


Berruezo      criteria ,http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/109/15/1842  ( Must  read)



What is the clincal significance of epicardial VT ?

Endo cardial ablation  not likely to be successful

Trans pericardial approach may be needed.

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                                         Ventricular  tachycardia is considered as a dangerous electrical rhythm abnormality .It can immediately degenrate into ventricular fibrillation and result in SCD in many.Ironically, it is also a fact , a patient with VT can  present silently  without any symptom  .Some VTs are slow and recurrent without much affecting The hemodyanmics.


In chronic recurrent, beningn VT (Some may consider it , ” height of  absurdity ” to call a VT beningn ! but it  is a reality , the term beningn denotes –  very remote chance of converting into VF) ” Is there any other therapeutic option other than convertng into sinus rhythm. “(  Read related topics)


The following paper was presented in the Annual scientific sessions of  Cardiological society of India,  Kochi , seven years ago in  2002



S.Venkatesan,,. Madras Medical College. Chennai


                           Mangement of  hemodynamically  stable  recurrent   ventricular tachycardia  remains a  delicate clinical problem. Reverting to  sinus rhythm  is  considered as  the only aim  of  treating  VT.While rate control is accepted as a therapeutic  option  in atrial fibrillation,  it is not  so,  for  ventricular tachycardia.In this  context  we attempted to analyse  the effect of  Amiodarone on   ventricular  rate  in stable ventricular tachycardia  which fail to convert  to sinus rhythm.


                            The  study cohort consisted of 49 patients with stable VT  who were admitted in the coronary care unit  of  Govt. General Hospital  between 1998 to 2002.The criteria for inclusion   were systolic BP>100mmHg and absence of  hypoperfusion of vital organs  The mean age was 52 years (range 26-68)  with a male female ratio  of 4:1.   Of the study group 36 patients  were either reverted with  IV lignocaine , Amiodarone ( 150-300mg   bolus )  or  DC  cardioversion . 13  patients  who did not respond to   either of these   were  followed up  with  Amiodaroneinfusion(1000mg)  for 24 hours.  The baseline  diagnosis were old MI (6)) DCM (3)  Arrhythmogenic RV displasia(2). Idiopathic VT was diagnosed in  2 patients.All these patients had  VT  during  most part of  the   24 hour  follow up.


                         The pre Amiodarone mean  ventricular rate was  152  (124 –196).  Post amiadaorne (at 24hrs) mean ventricular rate was 128(88-142). The time taken for   50% heart  rate reduction was  6.6h (4-24h).  The average  systolic blood pressure  improved from  100   to  112mmhg . These patients were  discharged  in stable clinical status with oral Amiodarone and  were  referred for  EP study.


                          It is concluded that Amiodarone, apart from it’s cardioverting ability , has a distinct ventricular  rate controlling  effect  which  can be of therapeutic value in  at least certain subset of chronic recurrent VT.

Final message


Some of  the patients  with VT carry a very low risk of VF  and SCD .In these  patients , the only  other major  aim is to prevent tachycardiac cardiomyopathy  that can be done with drugs which  controls  the ventricular rate whenever  VT occurs !

Corrrecting the primary cause like cardiac failire , revascularisation ,detailed EP study  ,tachycardia mapping , followed by RF ablation and ICD implantation is  the state of the art approch in the management of VTs.But this small clinical observation was made to  impress rate control could also be an option  in patients  in whom these procedures are  contraindicated  or not  available . 


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Ventricular  tachycardia (VT)  is one  of  the   dangerous form of  cardiac arrhythmias.

When it occurs , it may present  in  many ways

  • Cardiac arrest with immediate degeneration into ventricular fibrillation. 
  • Pulseless VT in a  conscious patient but in  in shock.
  • With pulse, relatively stable , not much fall in blood pressure.
  • Incidentally detected.*(Rare)

This , gives us  an idea  that VT  as an electrical abnormality has wide clinical presentations , life threatening  at one end and,  patient walking into the hospital with minimal palpitation on the other hand !

The management issues

  • In patients with hemodynamic instability , decision making is easy as there is only option of DC shock.
  • In patients with stable VT, it is natural for the physicians to get tentative or even confused.This is because , dangers of shocking a stable patient has to be weighed against the currently available excellent antiarrhytmic drugs( Amiodarone, Ibutilide etc) .


The major issue here is  in  ruling out underlying structural heart disease.

Never shock a stable VT, without knowing the myocardial and valvular function.There has been many occasions underlying  severe LV dysfunction is missed   and they may go for asystole.

VT in the setting of cardiomyopathy, Post MI(Scar mediated) are often refractory even to DC shocks.It is the drugs that will  ultimately control the arrhythmia.DC shock is just used to terminate the VT.

VT  structurally normal heart , especially arising the outflow tracts of LV or RV  behave very differently (Fortunately they are more benign)

  • Have less hemodynamic  impact as it involves the outflow tract and  not over the  the pumping  zone of LV as in conventional ischemic myocardial VT .
  • They  respond to calcium blockers  verapamil to be precise (As they share properties of SVTs)
  • Sensitivity to verapamil by no way convey a meaning of Amiodarone resistance.Out flow tract VTs will also respond to Amiodarone many times.
  • Degeneration into VF is rare.


Also  read  Therapeutic issues in stable ventricular tachycardia

Presented and published in Indian heart journal


Click  on link download PPT ventricular tachycardia


Related topics

Why some ventricular tachycardias are resistant , even to multiple DC shocks ?

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Ventricular fibrillation is invariably fatal if not treated . When can atrial fibrillation be fatal ? 

                                     Atrial fibrillation is relatively a benign arrhythmia especially when it occurs in isolation with  structurally normal heart.This is sometimes referred to lone atrial fibrillation . Even otherwise, atrial fibrillation is rarely fatal except in few situations.But AF commonly destabilises the patient  who have baseline valvular or myocardial disease.(Post MI, dilated cardiomyopathy etc)

There are few situations where AF can be life threatening

  • In patients  with WPW syndrome*where , AF  enters into a electrical short  circuit , downhill to enter the ventricle and make it fire at the same rate as that of atria . ( ie 400-600) and result in ventricular  fibrillation.Note , even here it is the VF that kills  not , AF per se.
  • AF in acute MI  often precipitates LVF , but rarely fatal.
  • In patients with critical aortic stenosis, or hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, sudden onset of AF can result in acute cardiac failure.
  • AF is often a terminal event in primary pulmonary hypertension

While atrial fibrillation is  less likely to cause  death , it is  a highly morbid arrhythmia .It is one of important cause of stroke in elderly as well as young !

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Ventricular tachycardia is considered as one of the most  dangerous  cardiac arrhythmia .Rather , it is the label  VT  that spreads more  fear than the arrhythmia itself. It is a fact many patients with VT walk into hospital , still  VT will always be a sinister arrhythmia as long as it carries a risk of degenerating into ventricular fibrillation.

What determines hemodynamic stability in VT ?

  • Origin and location of VT
  • The ventricular rate
  • Presence or absence of AV dissociation
  • Impact on mitral inflow pattern
  • Associated left ventricular dysfunction or valvular heart disease.
  • VT in the setting of acute coronary syndrome.(Ischemic VT)
  • Inappropriate drug selection

Origin and location

VTs originating high up in the ventricle( High septal VT,Proximal VTs) have more organised ventricular contraction  and they are more stable.Distal VT  originating  in the myocardium away from the conducting system has chaotic myocyte to myocyte conduction.These are very unstable.

The term fascicular VT is nothing but VTs originating  in the His bundle and it’s branches( Can also be termed Septal VT ).These VTs are also stable and some of them respond well to calcium blockers indicating that they are very close to the AV junction and carry the properties of junctional tachycardia. QRS width gives  a rough estimate about the location of VT. Narrower the VT higher it’s origin.( But remember even in VT ,  qrs can further widen on it’s way downhill !)

LV dysfunction.

This is probably the most important determinant of the outcome in VT. Patients with severe LV dysfunction (EF <30%) fare badly .Hence the land mark concepts from MADIT 1& 2 demanded ICDs in these patients.The most common clinical setting is  dilated cardiomyopathy.SomE of them have bundle branch re entry(BBR).This particular  VT can be stable for many  hours.

Ventricular rate.

Usually VT has a rate between 120-200.Higher the rate of VT more the chances of instability .This rule is also not always true as fascicular VT can be well tolerated at high rates.So location of VT focus  and LV dysfunction usually over rides the impact  of ventricular rate.

Mitral inflow pattern

Proper left ventricular filling is the key to hemodynamic stability in VT. In proximal, septal,fascicular, LVOT VTs doppler studies  suggest (ACC /AHA Type C evidence : Personal observations in CCU during VT) near normal preservation of  bi modal filling of mitral valve inflow.In ischemic myocardial VT  the mitral inflow profile is critically affected . There is no distinctive forward filling was observed .In fact  at rapid rates a short pulsatile MR jets are noted instead.

Associated valvular diseases

It is obvious,  aortic  and mitral valve disorders can aggravate the hemodyanmic instability.

Final message

The clinical behavior of  ventricular tachycardia is widely variable and dependent on multiple factors.

Associated LV dysfunction and  structural heart disease ultimately determine the outcome.


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                              Cardioversion with DC shock  offers immediate cure in many of the dangerous ventricular and atrial tachycardias.  It is often  taught ,  any hemodynamically unstable tachycardia  refractory to  medical therapy respond to electrical cardioversion.  One should also  remember electricity is in fact be called  as a drug !  and it should be delivered in proper form and dose. Here it is the paddle size, paddle position and the axis of current flow all are important. Now we have bi phasic currents for better efficacy.

                             While it is true, most of cardiac arrhythmias respond to shock,  there are few which do not respond or respond very transiently.There are few arrhythmias  in which ,DC shock is not only ineffective but may precipitate a ventricular  fibrillation.

                            Generally arrhythmias of reentrant etiology respond well to DC shock were interuption of  electrical circuit by external current is easily possible. In arrhythmia’s of enhanced automaticity ,  and ectopic tachycardia  it is difficult  to extinguish  the tachycardia focus with DC shock .

Arrhythmias where DC shock is not going to work are

A. Mutifocal atrial tachycardia(MAT)

B. Digoxin induced arrhythmias.Patients who are on digoxin,  has  enhanced ventricular  automaticity.These patients if they  get a DC shock will unmask the  ectopic foci.

C. In elderly with atrial fibrillation and sinus node dysfunction it may be dangerous to shock them with out temporary pacing support as sinus node goes for prolonged sleep mode.

D.In electrical storm with VT ,  if more than three shocks are required within a minute,  the VT will most often going to be permanent and the  electrical therapy can be termed as a failure. These patients will require intensive pharmacological management( Including magnesium, bretyllium etc)

E. And finally , sinus tachycardia (whatever the rate)  is an absolute contraindication for DC shock.

 Verapmil is often effective in MAT  but correction of hypoxia and acidosis may be critical.For digoxin induced arrhythmias phenytoin may be tried.

What to do when the DC shock fails?

  • It will be a  tricky situation and one wonder what to do next when the so called  universal antidote for cardiac arrhythmia fails !
  • Cellular internal millieu  is altered  by hypoxia and acidosis .It may prevent the  effectiveness of cardioversion.So try to correct them .
  • Over dirve atrial  pacing  is one option for automatic tachycardia.
  • And now ablation of arrhythmic focus is possible with radio frequency waves  in some of these patients.( Diffiuclt as an emergency procedure)

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The debate of rate control verses rhythm control in atrial fibrillation  goes on and on. The AFFIRM, RACE,PIAF, STAF the HOT CAFE all went against sinus rhythm in the last 10 years . This was one of the settled contoversies in cardiology . The conclusion was ventricular  rate control was no way inferior to rhythm control in patients with SHT, CAD population .This made the electrophyiologists wonder how can a natural rhythm fare bad ! . But the findings  were consistent .Rhythm control neither improved the quality of life nor  it reduced the incidence of stroke. The later finding was very surprising but the explanation was convincing as stroke in elderly was more related to SHT, CAD, DM etc than  AF itself. The source of emboli in ischemic stroke could come any where distal to LA .The big assumtion that all strokes in elderly  should come from LA appendage or the body  of LA was  premature and  wrong. What prevented stroke in AF was not restoration of SR but administration of oral anticoagulants with adequate INR.(2-3)

Having failed to document superiority in elderly  population   , the  logic machine  strongly suggested restoring SR  in patients with CHF,  will atleast provide hemodynamic and also survival  benefit .

And thus came the AF-CHF trial  published in NEJM 2008

Alas !  AF-CHF  also found there is no useful purpose of restoring sinus rhythm in patients  with atrial fibrillation and cardiac failure. In fact patients in SR fared little worse !

 Why . . .  why . . . why ?

Should we ask the seemingly absurd question !

Is sinus rhythm poorly tolerated by cardiac failure  patients ?

It is some times possible atrial fibrillation by itself could be a mechanism to amplify the  cardiac reserve by which it provides a  relatively high ventricular rate to improve the cardiac index  . Even though the optimal ventricular rate in AF is around 80-90 at times of need it has to increase to 120-130. Patients in class 3 CHF and AF often achieve this in times of demand .This is not possible in patients who are getting rhythm control drugs and further patients in SR can  not increase the HR suddenly from 80 -130  .

So is this a  wild imagination !   AF could be a safety valve mechanism in CHF to increase the HR . Where the atria come to the rescue of ventricle like a rate adaptive pacemaker .

The other logical* ! argument is that  there  is nothing wrong with restoring  SR , but the  methods to achieve and  maintain SR  is too cumbersome and results in adverse outcome .The currently available  drugs are too toxic for the purpose  .

If we have a simple and safe way to restore SR in these patients it should always be superior to AF .

But it is a well  known fact  that , whatever be the rhythm or rate the ultimate outcome will be dictated by the LV function, mitral valve function etc.

 Read abstract of AF-CHF

Rhythm Control versus Rate Control for Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Failure

Denis Roy, M.D., Mario Talajic, M.D., Stanley Nattel, M.D., ., for the Atrial Fibrillation and Congestive Heart Failure Investigators


Rhythm Control versus Rate Control for Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Failure

Denis Roy, M.D., Mario Talajic, M.D., Stanley Nattel, M.D.,  the Atrial Fibrillation and Congestive Heart Failure Investigators* –>ABSTRACT

Background It is common practice to restore and maintain sinus rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation and heart failure. This approach is based in part on data indicating that atrial fibrillation is a predictor of death in patients with heart failure and suggesting that the suppression of atrial fibrillation may favorably affect the outcome. However, the benefits and risks of this approach have not been adequately studied. Methods We conducted a multicenter, randomized trial comparing the maintenance of sinus rhythm (rhythm control) with control of the ventricular rate (rate control) in patients with a left ventricular ejection fraction of 35% or less, symptoms of congestive heart failure, and a history of atrial fibrillation. The primary outcome was the time to death from cardiovascular causes.
Results A total of 1376 patients were enrolled (682 in the rhythm-control group and 694 in the rate-control group) and were followed for a mean of 37 months. Of these patients, 182 (27%) in the rhythm-control group died from cardiovascular causes, as compared with 175 (25%) in the rate-control group (hazard ratio in the rhythm-control group, 1.06; 95% confidence interval, 0.86 to 1.30; P=0.59 by the log-rank test). Secondary outcomes were similar in the two groups, including death from any cause (32% in the rhythm-control group and 33% in the rate-control group), stroke (3% and 4%, respectively), worsening heart failure (28% and 31%), and the composite of death from cardiovascular causes, stroke, or worsening heart failure (43% and 46%). There were also no significant differences favoring either strategy in any predefined subgroup.
Conclusions In patients with atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure, a routine strategy of rhythm control does not reduce the rate of death from cardiovascular causes, as compared with a rate-control strategy.








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