Posts Tagged ‘sinus node anatomy’

This is an  ECG which  I reported  yesterday in my clinic . I thought it was a  near perfect example for sinus node premature beat .

sinus premature beat spb 2

(Of course I need to explain  why the  P morphology  slightly  differs )

A  sudden unexpected  QRS  complex is often called as  ectopic beat . If it occurs prematurely (ie earlier than anticipated )  it is called as premature beat. If it occurs late it is refereed  to as escape beat .Please note the difference is not absolute .

Sinus node is a dramatic bundle of energy with divine powers that  drives rhythm of life !

The pacemaker cells are arranged in a compact fashion with  differential properties from cranial cells firing fast and caudal cells little slower. The neural control is under constant Neuro/electro/humoral  servo control mechanism.It is well known the pacemaker shifts it’s firing location within the SA node in fairly regular fashion .The entire SA node has rich adrenergic and  cholinergic  innervation , with  a dominant control by the later . (This is  why the intrinsic heart rate is  in the tachycardia  range (around 116 )  when SA node is denerved  pharmacologically )


sinus premature systole spd sinus node ectopics002

SA node ,  being  a complex structure ,  it is not surprising to note  few beats to fire  slightly late  or  prematurely.If it occurs late it is called sinus pause ,  if it occurs early it is sinus premature beat , if  both occurs  interchangeably  we refer it as  sinus arhhytmia. (Read  about sinus pause here)

What is the clinical significance  of   SPD ? (Sinus premature depolarisation )

It is a  very benign entity that it is  merely an  academic fascination . By  stretching my  imagination  I  can  correlate  it  with few possible  clinical issues.

  • May be it has potenital to trigger a  SA nodal reentry tachycardia  or In appropriate sinus tachycardia/bradycardia.
  • It may be imporatnt in sinus node modification process.
  • However ,the main issue is  thee  cardiac physicians  in their enthusiasm should not mistake it for some serious  cardiac arrhythmia !

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SA node is  the ultimate   power  center  of heart located in the junction of SVC and right atrium .In normal physiology  it fires  at a rate of  60 -90 /minute   that  dictates  the  ventricular rate  .

SA node is a linear  spindle shaped structure with a length of  1.5cm . The P cells with unique mitochodria  are  responsible for pace making activity  . The ion responsible for pacemaker current is mainly  calcium  with the initial 25 % push given  by  sodium current as well .  These cells are predominately under vagal control.Even though  pace making activity  is normally restricted to the SA node  , the vagal innervation is such that  the pacemaker  has a  potential to shifts it’s activity  both functionally  geographically.

In fact , there is constant flux of pacemaker activity  with  the entire length of SA node.The  cranial   aspect  SA node has more fire  power than its caudal tip . It is possible Sinus tachycardia  and sinus  bradycardia could represent  minor changes in the firing focus in its cranio-caudal axis.Further the P cells of  sinus node can spill all over the atria and even up to AV node.

What is wandering  atrial pacemaker ?

This entity is poorly defined  in literature.  With pace making cells scattered all around  there is no surprise to note dynamic pacemaker  shifts  even in healthy people. This is  especially common in young athletes.

Wandering can occur

  • Within SA node ( Shift of focus of p cell firing .No visible changes in ECG )
  • Within SA node and atria
  • Between SA node and AV node. (Sino-Junctional rhythm )

Effect on ECG

  • Baseline bradycardia.
  • Changing P wave morphology
  • Change in PR intervals
  • Intermittent absent (Rather concealed  )  P wave if  is also possible
  • RR interval can also show minor variation.

Image Modifed from http://www.eheart.org

Clinical significance of  Wandering pacemaker(WAP )

  • A Benign condition generally has no clinical significance.
  • It is often an expression of  high vagal tone.
  • Usually transient.
  • Can be unmasked by beta or calcium blockers.
  • Severe forms of wandering  pace maker can be a marker of sinus node dysfunction  and  would need  further evaluation
  • In  the coronary care units it is  associated  with infero-posterior MI when the vagal fibers are  insulted.

Differential diagnosis .

  • Some times it  need to  be differentiated form ectopic atrial rhythm /Low atrial/Coronary sinus rhythm etc .
  • Sinus  slowing  followed by a  functional escape and  reemergence of sinus beat   can be a termed as a form of wandering  pacemaker

Final message

WAP : This attractive and  descriptive ECG entity  is   largely insignificant in clinical cardiology .

It should not be confused with more dangerous cardiac arrhythmia  like sinus pauses and arrest .

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