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Posts Tagged ‘ischemic vt’

Acute MI and ventricular tachycardia are closely related entities.In fact ,  the earliest response to ischemia could be a VT .But what  is peculiar about this VT is,  it  almost always degenerates into VF  within a minute or so.(Unlike idiopathic VTs /RVOT/LVOT VTs)

This arrhythmia in  every sense  can be called as  “primary VT which is the cause for “primary VF”

It is strongly  believed VF cannot occur without  a  brief episode of VT preceding it .Logic would also suggest  the ischemic myocardium  can not suddenly  become chaotic  “with the first  beat  “. There is little documentation available to unprove this presumption.

In spite of  this intimate relationship between VT and STEMI ,  it is very rare for a STEMI patient   to enter  ER with a sustained stable  ventricular tachycardia .  While  many VTs are known for it is hemodyanmic stability and immunity against degeneration   into  VF  , it is extremely rare  for  VT to remain as VT  in acute STEMI.

*Note : NSVT can be common   in  hospitalised patient in the coronary care unit . In our experience a sustained  VT in STEMI  will enter the VF mode within 60 seconds .If not , it is a highly  unusual phenomenon .

“But surprise is the other name of medicine ”

Here is  case report, a patient walked into coronary care unit with sustained( relatively stable) VT with LBBB morphology .We thought  it was   a  non- ischemic VT  (cardiomyopathy  , RVOT etc) .As we were examining him,  he became  unstable  and  was shocked 50 J biphasic .To our surprise a classical STEMI was unmasked and he was immediately  thrombolysed.

* It is possible ,  the patient had  suffered a  old MI  which got infarcted again and the VT  was scar mediated .

But it is still uncommon  for  it  not to degenerate into VF  with fresh  STEMI

Final message

Nearly all episodes of  ventricular tachycardia , that occur in the early minutes/ hours of  STEMI would degenerate into VF.This includes  VTs  that  occur within the CCU . Most  of the times , the CCU physicians and staffs  revert this VT  promptly and deny the  ventricles  from performing the dance of death !

It is extremely rare for an acute ischemic VT associated with STEMI to walk in to the hospital,  which our patient did !

Further reading and unanswered questions

  • What determines a VT to degenerate into VF ?
  • Why macro-reentrant , scar dependent VTs  often  are well tolerated ? ( In spite of LV dysfunction !)

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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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Acute coronary syndrome is the commonest cardiac emergency. STEMI and NSTEMI are the two clinical limbs of ACS. Generally they have distinct clinical, ECG, angiographic features.(Ofcourse,  with some degree of overlap) . It is  a  mystery , both clinical presentations differ so much inspite of the common denominator  , namely ,  an injured plaque with add on thrombus  within the coronary artery.

The mystery is since  decoded , the primary difference between these two entities is STEMI the occlusion occurs sudden and complete and in NSTEMI it occurs slow and incomplete

In STEMI ,  most of the clinical features and , need for emergent treatment , response to thrombolysis /PCI are dictated by the time dependent risk to myocardial loss .

Cardiac arrhythmias in ACS

It is a  much published  factoid   for  many decades  only one third of STEMI patients  reach the hospital alive ! The reason being , STEMI  is very much prone for primary VF.

Contrary  to this ,  almost all patients with NSTEMI reach the hospital alive ! How ?

Both are ACS, if ischemia is a powerful trigger for dangerous ventricular  arrhythmia’s ,  NSTEMI should also behave  similarly .

So what protects against arrhythmias in NSTEMI ?

  • We realise ,  by observational experience (Not EBM !)  It is the suddenness and totality of ischemia that trigger dangerous form of arrhythmia  .
  • Further, a balanced  ischemia in two contralateral segments (or global  ischemia) some how protects against development of ventricular  fibrillation .This may be due to preservation  of  electrical homogeneity  , and the spherical VT spiral waves are not sustainable.
  • In contrast , STEMI has a sudden  focal , ischemic  zone that initiates the VT and    ischemia free  contralateral segment  welcoming  and sustaining the  reentrant wavelet.
  • The observation of primarily single vessel disese in STEMI and multivessel disease in NSTEMI also give credence to this concept.
  • Further , ischemic preconditioning can exert an important anti arrhythmic  effect in NSTEMI as  patients with unstable angina have   slow, repetitive episodes of ischemia prior to the index event .
  • Post MI scar mediated VT/VF is independent of degree of overall ischemia
  • It is also established ,  a sub group of  STEMI pateints  who  had  preinfarction angina(  ie . a brief  period of UA/NSTEMI) have very low risk of SCD  supporting the concept of sensitising the myocardium against ventricular arrhythmias.

Final message

Even though , there is a convincing concept  of   ischemia induced  cardiac arrhythmia in literature , in real patients it is very difficult to link the two.

UA/NSTEMI is the most common  acute ischemic event but the incidence of VT/VF here,  is far less than one would expect.

In ACS , focal , total  ischemia is more likely to precipitate a VT/VF than multifocal and global ischemia.

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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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