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Instructors Collection ECG: Marked Bradycardia With Bifascicular Block

The Patient:    This ECG was taken from an elderly woman. Unfortunately, we do not know any details about the case.  That acknowledged, there are many interesting aspects to this ECG.

The ECG:  The first thing we notice is the severe bradycardia – almost certain to be symptomatic.  The rate is 32 bpm and the rhythm is regular.  There are no P waves.  This is a junctional rhythm, slightly slower than expected from junctional escape.

The QRS shows the presence of right bundle branch block.  Each QRS on the ECG starts as a narrow complex, but then adds an “extra” wave onto the end – the delay caused by the right ventricle depolarizing late.  The terminal delay is very noticeable in V1 as an R’ wave, and in Leads I and V6 as a small, wide s wave.  There is right axis deviation, so the diagnosis of bifascicular block (RBBB and left posterior fascicular block) can be made.

V2 through V6 show fragmentation of the QRS complexes and a loss of voltage and R wave progression.  This points to anterior wall M.I. We can’t know the age of the M.I. without clinical correlation, but the ST segments in those leads are very flat, with uniformly symmetrical inverted T waves all the way to V6.  All of these signs indicate recent injury.  An anterior M.I. can cause the bifascicular block we are seeing, since the bundle branches begin in the septum.

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ECG Basics: Second-degree AV Block, Type I

This two-lead rhythm strip shows a normal sinus rhythm at about 63 bpm.  The P waves are regular. After the sixth P-QRS, there is a non-conducted P wave.  The normal rhythm then resumes.  The two most common reasons for a non-conducted P wave in the midst of a normal sinus rhythm are 1) non-conducted PAC, and 2) Wenckebach conduction. The first is easy to rule out.  The non-conducted P wave is not premature, so it is not a PAC.  The second one is a little harder when we only have a short strip to look at.  We are conditioned to look for progressively-prolonging PR intervals until a QRS is "dropped".  In this case, the progression is in very tiny increments that are hard to see unless you zoom in and measure.  But they ARE progressively prolonging.  An easy hack:  measure the last PRI before the dropped beat and the first one after the pause.  You will see that the cycle ends on a longer PRI (about .28 seconds) and the new cycle starts up with a PR interval of about .20 seconds.  Fortunately, this conduction ratio will have very little effect on the patient's heart rate.

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Ask The Expert

Dr. Jerry W. Jones, MD, FACEP, FAAEM has graciously shared with us his four-part article on the topic of “Delays & Blocks Involving the Bundle Branches”.

Dr. Jones is a talented instructor who makes difficult topics easy.  Please feel free to post your comments and questions for Dr. Jones and our other ECG Gurus. 

Click THIS LINK for a downloadable pdf of Part 1: Non-Specific Intraventricular Conduction Delays. 

Click THIS LINK for a downloadable pdf of Part 2: Left Bundle Branch Block.

Click THIS LINK for a downloadable pdf of Part 3: Right Bundle Branch Block.

Click THIS LINK for a downloadable pdf of Part 4: The Fascicles of the Left Bundle Branch 

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ECG Glossary from Dr. Ken Grauer

Are you looking for a comprehensive ECG glossary that goes beyond simply defining words? Dr. Ken Grauer, who is the ECG Guru's Consulting Expert, has a Glossary available on his website that explains the terms.  Instructors and students alike will benefit from having this glossary readily available.  The glossary is exerpted from his e-Publication, "A 1st Book On ECGs - 2014", available on Amazon.

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1924:  Willem Einthoven wins the Nobel prize for inventing the electrocardiograph.

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