Posts Tagged ‘ventricular ectopic beats’

ecg pulse deficit biventricular bigeminy


Answer : Most probably  B .

What we feel in peripheral pulse ,  is one weak and the one strong beat in sequence .The later is due to post VPD potentiation. Since there is a compensatory pause , ECG rate (Number of QRS complexes /mt)  and pulse rate are same .

Ironically , heart rate and ECG rate are not same as VPDs impact mitral valve more than aortic valve  and cause additional  S 1 than S 2 making heart rate considerably more than pulse rate and logically it must be  double the pulse rate . This may be difficult to  appreciate by auscultation, but can be documented by phono-cardiogram or by M mode echocardiogram.




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VPDs are such a common cardiac arrhythmia . We also know most are benign .Still modern science demands to rule out structural heart disease in any patient with multiple VPDs.

When ventricles get irritated it reacts with VPDs . ( The irritants  can be anatomical , physiological or primary electrical)

Echo can detect only anatomical irritants .We are recognising  more such focus for VPDs . Hence idiopathic VPDs  may simply reflect our ignorance !  A focused  echocardiogram is  required .

The following conditions are often observed in patients  with recurrent VPDs

  1. Posterior Mitral annular calcification (Especially in women ) –Annular VPDs
  2. Aortic valve degeneration /Bicuspid aortic valve with calcification – Cuspal VPDs
  3. Mitral valve prolapse in young -Stretch induced  Pap muscle VPDs
  4. Minimal  pericardial effusions with adherent epicarditis
  5. LV false tendons-Stretch VPDs
  6. RVOT lipid focus -Subclinical ARVD
  7. LVH and Hypertension –Fibrotic VPDs    
  8. Asymmetric septal hypertrophy
  9. Scars in MI/ DCMs
  10. infiltrations in RCMs (Any Interstitial heart disease )

(Conditions 7 and 8 are  common disorders myocardium  just included to  complete the list )

**Please note ,above mentioned entites are anatomical irritants .There is a whole lot of physiological  irritants

that can induce VPDs .  ( Hypoxia, Excess catecholamines ,  K + fluxes ,  acidotic milieu etc ) .

*** Another group is primary electrical diseases inherited channel disease can induce VPDs

Also read

A crash course on ventricular ectopics


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There are many  organic causes of mitral regurgitation. ( Ischemic , degenerative , valvular , cardiomyopathy etc.) It is not  rare for  pure  electrical events to result in valvular regurgitation.   A 70year old  man  with SHT   presented  with palpitation  and exertional dyspnea  .He was  later referred  for  Echocardiography.  Echo revealed LVH with intermittent MR and moderate LV dysfunction.

His ECG looked like

Ventricular ectopic recorded in bi-geminal rhythm

His  echocardiogram showed


His echo showed randomly timed mitral regurgitation was detected .See the Doppler MR jets below.

We know ventricles are integral  part of mitral valve apparatus  .Hence  it  wouldn’t  be a surprise to note  abnormally timed ventricular contraction  can  have a major impact  on mitral valve function.

When ventricles  prematurely begin  to contract  ( As  during  VPDs) it  interferes with  opening of mitral valve. In other words every VPD  technically imparts a  sort of  diastolic dysfunction !

VPDs occur in which part of cardiac cycle ?

VPDs  occur  either in early   or mid  diastole . Thank fully VPDs can not occur in systole . (Refractory period )

What would be the status of mitral valve at times of  VPDs?

Though it depends upon the timing of VPD ,  generally it interrupts the rapid inflow period of diastole .

In fact ,  it converts the cardiac  cycle from diastole to a partial systole or  a combination( fusion ) of diastole   and systole ! *

More MR jets are visualised than LV filling waves . Note the some of the E waves are sandwiched between two MR jets. ECG gating should have made this image more interesting .Any way , we have good MR jets to time systole nicely

* Is that a funny  imagination  ?

During   diastole ,  if  LV suddenly  begins  to contract   instead of  receiving the blood  ,  what will happen ?

VPDs are such a common arrhythmia , we  rarely  wondered  ,  it can have a dramatic  consequence  in a any  given cardiac cycle .While   the cardiologists think too  technically  their  patients observe with  shrewd  sense and tell us clearly  what  they feel  is  actually a   missed beat !

(Yeh  . . .  how simple  they describe the complex  hemo-dynamics  of  missing  diastole !)  .They also tell  us ,  next systole is felt as big thump as palpitation . (Post VPD potentiation )

Just imagine ,  if a patient  has  multiple VPDs  with  different  coupling intervals   that fall in different location of diastole  also  interspersed with sinus beats ,   how chaotic  would be the  the  mitral   filling .

This is what  is recorded in the above patient with multiple random MR jets .

Why all VPDs do  not cause MR ?

The timing is critical .We know all VPDs do  not generate a powerful contraction to cause MR. Atrial fibrillation, Prolonged PR intervals , heart blocks , critically raised LVEDP all can influence the trans mitral gradient . In fact these situation can result in  an  entity called diastolic MR that would be discussed later.

Can  VPD induced MR be  referred to  as diastolic MR ?

When VPDs  occur  in  diastole  , it  interrupts the diastole  and a new systole begins. In any  particular point of time there will be  leak into the LA  if the mitral valve is open .This is technically a new systole but in true sense it is the diastole of  the  previous beat . I wonder , whether   VPD induced MR  may be referred  to as one  form of  diastolic MR.  Of course ,  this MR can spill over to true  systole as well .

This also  makes  sense (Non !) as many of the VPDs do not open the  aortic valve ,   hence technically we can’t call the phase reset  by  all  VPDS   as a true systole !

What is the effect of VPDs  on pulmonary venous flow ?

Left atrial  cannon waves can occur that can elevate PCWP .This is the prime reason for resting or  exertional  dyspnea in these patients. Some may get a paradoxical relief  during exertion   as  exercise  suppress VPDs which are frequent at rest.

If VPDs can seriously interfere with mitral valve function , why  they are  often  considered benign  ?

VPDs are well tolerated* as long as  the  LV function is intact.  If VPDs are associated with  LV dysfunction  it  can initiate a vicious cycle of   hemodynamic deterioration .  Multiple VPDs  if left untreated can lead to progressive LV dilatation  in a  significant population .  Hence patients with  recurrent VPDS need some sort of  follow up. It  makes good medical sense to suppress VPDs in the long run. (Of course the  available anti VPD  drugs  are not very safe  !  The search for non toxic ,  ideal drug should go on !)

*”Well tolerated VPDs”   in no way  means  normal physiology.  Read a related article in my site.  “3 minutes crash course on VPDs”

Final message

VPDs  though considered  largely benign , can lead to dramatic  alterations in the  functions  of mitral valve , especially in diseased hearts.

We  must  realise  when ventricular  ectopic beats occur frequently  , it  interfere with the  both opening and closing of mitral valve.

It is really surprising  ,  the literature is  devoid of  major studies  about the  impact of  VPDs on  mitral valve  physiology . . . rather pathology !

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Ventricular ectopic beats are the most common cardiac electrical abnormality for which cardiologist’s consultation is sought.VPDs are one of most benign observations in ECG and  and almost every  heart experiences it. In 24 hour holter recordings it was reported up to 25% of healthy  individuals .

In spite of this ,  the fear of  noting a VPD in a given tracing of ECG is genuine both for the patient and his physician.This is because  VPDs  can be  a forerunner of dangerous ventricular arrhythmias.

  • VPDs are often graded according to the count and morphology and frequency.(Lown’s ,Bigger’s grading)
  • VPDs that occur in single are less fearsome.( It may not be so . . .)
  • VPDs in couplets and  triplets raise considerable anxiety.( Again it need not be . . .)
  • A series of VPD lasting for 30 seconds is called non sustained ventricular tachycardia(NSVT)
  • If it exceeds 30second it called sustained VT.
  • VT may remain as VT in many.
  • VT may degenerate into VF  ventricular fibrillation in minority( ie cardiac arrest)

The importance of VPDs do not lie  in the number ,  morphology or frequency  but most importantly  in  the underlying etiology. If it occurs in a structurally normal heart it is largely benign.

New onset VPDs should be investigated thoroughly. The commonest symptom is palpitation.

vpd ectopic

Friendly VPDs : Some of  situations where VPDs are  commonly observed and has little significance are.

  • Exercise induced VPDs
  • Pregnancy induced VPDs  (PIH /Peripartum DCM are  rare possibilities)
  • Thyroid associated VPDs
  • Alcohol /Smoke related

What are the VPDs that could be clinically  important ?

VPDs with chest pain(Ischemic etiology )

VPDs in patients with dyspnea.(CHF , COPD)

Drug induced VPDs(Digoxin etc)

Renal failure associated VPDs

VPDs due to hypoxia/Hypokalemia

In patients with pre existing heart disease.(Congenital, valvular, myocardial disease)

What prevents a non sustained VT from becoming sustained ?

No one really knows the answer.Most of the NSVT self terminates.A healthy heart some how gets the capacity to self terminate the arrhythmia.The normal  LV  fails to sustain the abnormal electrical circuit . A diseased heart may not be able to do so . Further if there is electrolyte abnormality (low potassium), or lack of oxygen it may maintain a VT.

What are the most dangerous forms of VPDs ?

  • VPDs that occur during  acute coronary syndrome.
  • VPDs associated with cardiomyopathy( Ischemic , nonischmic,)
  • Some forms of primary electrical disorders of heart( Brugada syndrome, ARVD , CMVT etc)

How do you investigate patients with VPDs?

General medical work up in all.

Echocardiogram is usually necessary in most.

Holter monitoring in occasionally.

Coroanry angiogram rarely

Electrophysiological study in high risk category

How do you manage  patients with VPDs?

  1. Generally do not require any specific drugs in vast majority of individuals .
  2. Reassurance is the key
  3. Ask them to avoid potential triggers like smoke, alcohol, coffee, tea and related bevarages.
  4. If palpitation is troublesome beta blockers( Propronolol, Atenolol, metoprolol can be used.)
  5. Anxiolytic may also be given.

*If the patient has  systemic disorder like hyperthyroidsm , anemia  or underlying heart disease he has to get the specific treatment.

Caution:It has become fashionable for the physicians  to use powerful antiarrhythmic drugs like amiodarone (Cordarone) liberally in patients with asymptomatic VPDs with structurally normal hearts.this practice must be absolutely avoided as amiodarone is one of most toxic  cardiac drugs known  with great pro arrhythmic activity.

When to refer a patient with VPD to a electrophysiologist ?

Physicians   can  treat   most of these patients. But the following will require EP consultations

  • Patients with syncope
  • Patient who have LV dysfunction(Low ejection fraction EF%)
  • Has had an episode of ventricular tachycardia
  • Cardiac arrest

What will the Electrophysiologist  do ?

These patients will be evaluated for inducibility of VT/VF and if the LV function is poor (EF<30%  MADIT 2 criteria ) many would receive implantable cardivertor defibrillator(ICD) or life long anti arrhythmic  drugs.

Some times radiofrequency (RF ablation)  waves are used to ablate the focus of VT.This is possible only if it occurs close to endocardium as  intracardiac catheters do not have access to epicardial  focus. Among  ICD and RF ablation later could be preferred whenever feasible as it eliminates the arrhythmia , while  the former only tackles it only after it occurs .( Hence ICDs  , even though a technological marvel can not be labelled as curative ! )

Final message

VPDs are the   most common cardiac arrhythmia .Most of them are benign. Few of them require extensive investigation.

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