Posts Tagged ‘sinus bradycardia’

Bradycardia is a common cardiac arhythmia. Sinus bradycardia  is  often considered an arrhythmia from a disciplined heart. It denotes high vagal tone .  A  heart rate  of  40 , some times even 35 is well tolerated . But bradycardia due to heart blocks are dangerous.

Sinus bradycardia can not get lower than 30/mt or so , as invariably either the  junction or the  ventricle , escapes with its own rhythm. Near syncope, dizziness , giddiness followed by  syncope  occur as the  heart rate  slows progressively below this level .It is often taught humans can not survive  when the heart  rate  goes below 10/mt .

Case report :

Here is middle-aged man who  presented  with a history of  recurrent syncope over a period of  3 days . He has no  history of CAD.

As he entered  the ER, this ECG was recorded.

At this pint of time  , when the ECG was recorded,  he was  conscious and talking ,  only to complain  of  little dizziness. After seeing this ECG , he was immediately put on a  temporary pacemaker.

Note : The ECG shows a single qrs complex per tracing of 10  sec duration .Ie HR of 6 /mt.One qrs complex for 50 large squares !  .Divide  300/50 and HR is 6 . Note also the p waves fire at 150/mt due to atropine effect .

The procedure  took 15 minutes to perform  , he was comfortable  and was administered atropine , and isoprenaline *, which increased his heart rate  from  6/mt to 10/mt .

Later he went on to receive a permanent pacemaker a week later.

* Temporary trans-cutaneous pacing using paddle stickers  is  an another  modality available in such situations where trans-venous pacing is  likely to be delayed  .

Message from this case

Cardiology’s  ultimate  moment of glory and truth  is experienced  when a  life  is saved with  a pacemaker.

Extreme bardycardias are  often  fatal , but here is a patient with  dangerously  low heart rate , still not resulting in asystole  or brady induced VT/VF . We had adequate  time to plan a strategy . Severe bradycardias  need not result in cardiac  arrest always.  Some hearts  have amazing capacity   and their  fighting spirit   amazes  us !  .It should be noted that , the above example may be  an exception than a rule .

Read Full Post »

ECG of an athlete is many times difficult to interpret. The influence of autonomic tone in  athlete’s heart is an complex one.Contrary to our expectations the parasympathetic tone is higher in well trained athletes. The resting heart rate can be as low as 30/mt which is 99.9 times pathological in non athletes.This happens due to a concept called accentuated antagonism.The athletes who have episodic surge of high catecholamines keep stimulating the para sympathetic neurones in a constant fashion.

LVH is the most common feature.Here there is simple myocyte hypertrophy, without pathological fibrosis.This differentiates athlete’s, heart from HOCM .

Many ECG abnormalities are reported in athletes.

Excerpts from the ACC recommendation

1. Electrocardiographic findings that are common and training-related and that do not require additional evaluation are sinus bradycardia, 1° atrioventricular block (AVB), incomplete right bundle branch block (BBB), early repolarization, and isolated voltage criteria for left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH).

2. Uncommon and training unrelated electrocardiographic findings that mandate further evaluation include T-wave inversion, ST-segment depression, pathological Q waves, atrial enlargement, a hemiblock, right ventricular hypertrophy, a BBB, or a Brugada-pattern of ST-segment elevation.

3. Training-related electrocardiographic findings are more common in men than women, athletes of African descent, and high-endurance athletes such as cyclists.

4. Sinus rates <30 bpm and sinus pauses >2 seconds are common in highly trained athletes, particularly during sleep.

5. A normal chronotropic response to exertion and the absence of bradycardia-related symptoms distinguishes training-related sinus bradycardia from sinus node dysfunction.

6. 1° AVB and Mobitz I 2° AVB are common, but Mobitz II 2° AVB or 3° AVB should not be assumed to be training-related and require evaluation.

7. Early repolarization in Caucasian athletes most commonly consists of upwardly concave ST-segments and tall and peaked T waves; in black athletes, there often is convex ST-segment elevation and negative T waves, mimicking a Brugada pattern.

8. In the presence of voltage criteria for LVH, pathological hypertrophy should be suspected if there is left atrial enlargement, left-axis deviation, repolarization abnormalities, or pathological Q waves.

9. T-wave inversion ≥2 mm in ≥2 adjacent leads should prompt evaluation for structural heart disease.

10. Electrophysiological testing for risk stratification with possible catheter ablation is appropriate in athletes with ventricular pre-excitation.

Source :  Fred Morady, M.D., F.A.C.C.


For an excellent article on the topic click here

Read Full Post »



Sinus node  as the pacemaker , orchestrates the rhythm of life . It has  to fire for the entire life time of  a person.It  can not afford to take any rest ! But it can pause a little bit , of course that pause  could  be less  than 15% of it’s basic sinus length. This variation of sinus  cycle length is called sinus arrhythmia.This is physiological. When it exceeds 15 % of the previous sinus cycle it is referred to as sinus pause.

 Have a look at this ECG



What follows a long pause ?

By strict terms  of definition a sinus   pause should be followed by  a delayed , next sinus  beat only. A  sinus pause  , many times  is followed  by   JPD – Junctional escape beat.This situation should be ideally  referred to sinus arrest as the sinus node is taking too much of rest and it is not able to wake up from the slumber and it needs assistance form the junctional pace maker.

So even though sinus pause and sinus arrest is used many times interchangeably, it should be avoided. 

What are the electrophysiological mechanisms of sinus pause ?

  • Simple sinus bradycardia . The commonest  mechanism is  the  increased vagal tone. This occurs more often in young athletes. Eventhough increased vagal tone  conveys   a innocuous meaning , at times  this can also be symptomatic  and require intervention.
  • Sinus node exit block.
  • First degree, second degree, complete SA block can occur as in AV node.

First degree SA block can not be diagnosed by surface ECG. Third degree SA block is same as sinus arrest and subsidiary pacemaker will function in these patients.  Second degree SA block is usually diagnosed when the sinus pause is in the multiples of resting sinus cycles. If the pauses are not in exact multiples  sinus arrest is diagnosed. All these arrhythmia’s are collectively called sinus node dysfunction(SND)

How do you manage these patients?

Sinus node disorders can occur in number of systemic diseases*. It  needs to be  ruled out.

  • Infiltrating diseases like amyloidosis, hypothyroid states can result in SND.
  • Drug induced SND like beta blocker and calcium blockers are fairly common and should be excluded
  • Some congenital heart disease (SVC ASD) can involve sinus node.
  • Ischemic SA node disease is rare but can occur  following  infero posterior  myocardial infarction
  • Sinus node disorders are  very often related to degenerative atrial diseases associated with HT, cardiomyopathy etc

*The list is not exhaustive

A very important association is noted  with atrial fibrillation as  a part of tachy brady syndrome .The link between SND and AF  is obvious as   atrial pathology is the common denominator in both ! This will be discussed later.

When is a  pause  significant ?

Any pause that is producing significant symptoms is significant.This depends upon the overall  hemodynamic compensation of the patient.Young, and fit can even tolerate three second pause without symptoms.Underlying heart disease makes even a smaller pause symptomatic.But generally a 3  second or more  pause is almost always pathological .Pauses can be up to  5  seconds (  a 5 second pause actually means a  heart rate of 12/mt , obviously it can not go on for a minute, a patient will develop a syncope). A 3 second pause  corresponds to 20/minute.

How will you evaluate a patient with sinus pause ?

There are sophisticated electrophysiological studies (EP) available like sinus node ECG ,sinus node function studies like sinus node recovery time, activation time etc. But these are generally of  academic interest.

If a patient is symptomatic  (syncope) because of bradycardia  he requires a pacemaker and  EP study is redundant . Similarly , if  he is totally asymptomatic in spite of pauses , again  EP study is  not  indicated.

Only for patients  in the  grey zone,   further studies are indicated .This would include a extended holter, loop recorders, event monitors etc.

Another important issue to consider  is , before putting a pacemaker   patient”s   symptom  must be correlated  with their arrhythmia.

What is  the overlap  between sinus node dysfunction and neuro cardiogenic syncope ?

SND  can occur as an overlapping syndrome with neurocardiogenic syncope.(NCS ).NCS is also a very common cause of syncope .In NCS  there are two limbs .Cardio inhibitory and vasodepressive. The cardio inhibitory form can exactly mimic an SND. In a given patient  it is very difficult to pinpoint which of this limb is dominant.Head up tilt test(HUT)  might help in few.  If a patent’s symptoms are due to inappropriate vasodilatation pace maker may not reduce the symptom of dizziness or syncope.


  • There is no ideal  medical therapy* available as on date
  • Withholding all drugs which might aggravate bradycardia is of paramount importance.
  • Pace maker is the specific treatment in all symptomatic patients.

*Aminophyline tablet may be useful in some patients .It acts by antagonising adnosine receptors in SA node.Other drugs which can incrase the heart rate in the short term include  Orcipranaline(Beta 2 stimulant /Alupent ) Probantheline(M 1 blocker)

The key issue is to avoid unnecessary pacemaker implants in patients who have insignificant pause.

 Which pacemaker is ideal in SND ?


                                                              The need for dual or single chamber pacemker will be taken by the electrophysiologist .Atrial based pacemaker (AAI)  is preferred as it gives physiological pacing .But a simple ventricle based VVI pace maker is good enough in vast majority of patients. This takes care of   future risk of AV block also. DDD pace maker is the most physiological pacemaker and it is supposed to provide better quality of life. But it has an issue of insertion and  maintenance of  two leads, multi parameters to be programmed.It should switch to appropriate modes  at different times.(Like VVI mode during atrial fibrillation etc).Trouble shooting needs expertise , while  VVI is simple,  safe , and just effective as well .(In this turbulent world, quality of life is a  too trivial an issue  to be determined by a DDD  maker)

Read Full Post »