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Bifascicular block

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Instructors' Collection ECG: High-grade AV Block With Bradycardia

Thu, 06/04/2020 - 14:24 -- Dawn

If you are an ECG instructor, you probably carefully choose ECGs to illustrate the topic you are teaching. One of the reasons for the existence of the ECG Guru website is our desire to provide lots of such illustrations for you to choose from.

Sometimes, though, an ECG does not clearly illustrate one specific dysrhythmia well, because the interpretation of the ECG depends on so many other factors.  In order to get it “right”, we would need to know information about the patient’s history, presentation, lab results, or previous ECGs. We might need to see the ECG done immediately before or after the one we are looking at.  Some ECG findings must ultimately be confirmed by an electrophysiology study before we can know for sure what is going on.

For those of us who are “ECG nerds”, it can be fun to debate our opinions and even more fun to hear from wiser, more advanced practitioners about their interpretations.

My belief, as a clinical instructor, is that we must teach strategies for treating the patient who has a “controversial” ECG that take into account the level of the practitioner, the care setting, and the patient’s hemodynamic status.  In some settings, it might be absolutely forbidden for a first-responder to cardiovert atrial fibrillation, for example.  But atrial fib is routinely cardioverted under controlled conditions in hospitals.  The general rule followed by emergency providers that “all wide-complex tachycardias are v tach until proven otherwise” has no doubt prevented deaths in situations where care providers did not agree on the origin of the tachycardia.

The ECG:    We do not have much patient information to go with this ECG, just that it is from a 71-year-old woman who developed severe hypotension and lost consciousness, but was revived with transcutaneous pacing.   Here is what we do know about this ECG:

·        There are regular P waves, at a rate of about 39 bpm (sinus bradycardia).

Tachycardia In An Unresponsive Patient

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 20:48 -- Dawn

 The Patient     This ECG was obtained from a 28-year-old woman who was found in her home, unresponsive.  She was hypotensive at 99/35.  No one was available to provide information about past medical history or the onset of this event.

Before you read my comments, pause to look at the ECG and see what YOU think.  We would welcome comments below from all our members!

The ECG     This ECG is quite challenging, as it illustrates the helpfulness of ECG changes in patient diagnosis, and also points out how important clinical correlation is when the ECG suggests multiple different problems. Forgive me in advance, but there is a lot to say about this ECG.

The heart rate is 148 bpm, and the rhythm is regular, although not perfectly. P waves are not seen, even though the ECG machine gives a P wave axis and PR interval measurement. The rate is fast enough to bury the P waves in the preceding T waves, especially if there is first-degree AV block. Differential dx: sinus tachycardia, PSVT, atrial flutter. The very slight irregularity points more towards sinus tachycardia.  The rate of nearly 150 suggests atrial flutter with 2:1 conduction, but the only lead that looks remotely like it has flutter waves is V2. The lack of an onset or offset of the rhythm makes it difficult to diagnose PSVT with any certainty.

Bifascicular Block With First-degree AVB

Wed, 04/24/2019 - 21:29 -- Dawn
The Patient  This ECG was obtained from an 80-year-old man with a past medical history of hypertension, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyperlipidemia, chronic kidney disease, and heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).


He presented to the hospital with a complaint of shortness of breath, and was determined to have an exacerbation of his COPD in the setting of a viral infection.  He was treated with breathing treatments and steroids, and was discharged home in improved condition.

The ECG   There is a sinus rhythm at 80 bpm.  The QRS complex is wide at .18 seconds (180 ms). The PR interval is slightly prolonged at .24 seconds (240 ms), which is first-degree AV block. There is right bundle branch block (QR in V1 and rS in Leads I and V6 with a wide QRS).  There is also a left posterior fascicular block (also called hemiblock), recognized by the right axis deviation (III is taller than aVF ).  This is bi-fascicular block, which can be chronic or acute.  There is very slight ST elevation with flattening in V1 and possibly V2.  In RBBB, “normal” T waves are directed opposite the terminal wave of the QRS.  V3 should, then, have inverted T waves. So, the upright T wave in this patient could be considered to be equivalent to an inversion in a normal ECG.  V4 through V6 have biphasic T waves, which is not normal for RBBB.  Because we do not have an old ECG, we don’t know which, if any, of these changes are chronic.  With this patient’s past medical history, it is possible for any of them to be pre-existing.

I will admit that, when I first saw this ECG, the V1 rhythm strip at the bottom looked as though there were regular P waves at a rate of about 220-240, with one buried in each QRS and one in each T wave. In scrutinizing all the other leads, I cannot find evidence for an underlying atrial tachycardia or atrial flutter, so it is probably a coincidence that the P and T “march out” with the assumption of a hidden P wave in the QRS.

Bifascicular Block

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 14:35 -- Dawn

This ECG is from a 77 year old woman who was brought to the Emergency Department by EMS. She was found to be suffering from sepsis.

ECG Interpretation      The ECG shows the expected sinus tachycardia at 123 beats per minute.  There is significant baseline artifact, of the type usually seen with muscle tension.  The artifact makes it difficult to assess P waves and PR intervals.


What we do see is RIGHT BUNDLE BRANCH BLOCK and LEFT ANTERIOR HEMIBLOCK, also called LEFT ANTERIOR FASCICULAR BLOCK.  Together, these are called BIFASCICULAR BLOCK.  Most people have three main fascicles in the interventricular conduction system:  the right bundle branch and the two branches of the left bundle branch, the anterior-superior fascicle and the posterior-inferior fascicle.  In bifascicular block, two of the three are blocked.

The ECG criteria for right bundle branch block are:

     *     wide QRS (> .12 seconds)


     *     rSR’ pattern in V1 .  (the initial R wave may be hard to see, but the QRS will be predominantly upright.

Left Bundle Branch Block With Second-Degree AV Block, Type II

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 18:44 -- Dawn

 This ECG was obtained from an 84-year-old woman who was scheduled for surgery.  When the anesthesiologist did this ECG, the surgery was cancelled. It is a very good example of fascicular-level blocks. 

The underlying rhythm is a regular sinus rhythm at about 95 bpm.  There are some non-conducted P waves which are part of the sinus rhythm (not premature beats).  When the P waves DO conduct, the PR interval is steady at about .15 seconds (148 ms).

In addition, there is a LEFT BUNDLE BRANCH BLOCK.  The ECG criteria for LBBB are:  1) A supraventricular rhythm, 2) A wide QRS, and 3) A negative QRS in Lead V1 and a positive QRS in Leads I and V6.  The QRS duration in this ECG is 136 ms.

There are generally two fascicles (branches) in the left bundle branch, and one main fascicle in the right bundle branch.  So, a LBBB represents a “bi-fascicular block”.  That means that A-V conduction is proceeding down only one fascicle (the right bundle branch).  In that fascicle, there is an “intermittent” block.  When the RBB is not blocked, we see a QRS.  When it is blocked, we see none.  This is then termed an “intermittent tri-fascicular block” – otherwise known as SECOND-DEGREE AV BLOCK, TYPE II.  Type II blocks nearly always have a wide QRS due to the underlying bundle branch pathology.  You may see RBBB, LBBB, or RBBB with left anterior fascicular block (hemiblock).  Very rarely, the combination might include left posterior hemiblock.  The intermittent block in the “healthiest” fascicle(s) is what makes this a second-degree block, and not a complete heart block (third-degree AVB).

The clinical implications of this block are that the heart is operating on only one fascicle, and that fascicle is showing obvious signs of distress.  A third-degree AVB could be imminent.  In addition, LBBB causes a wide QRS, which decreases cardiac output.  Second-degree, Type II AVBs can result in very slow rates, and sometimes cause more hemodynamic instability that some third-degree AV blocks.

This patient was scheduled for pacemaker implantation instead of the originally-scheduled surgery. 

Bifascicular Block and Sinus Bradycardia

Fri, 11/18/2016 - 20:30 -- Dawn

Today’s ECG is from a 75 year old man who has been experiencing syncope. 

Examination of the ECG shows a sinus bradycardia at just under 40 bpm.  There is a first-degree AV block, with a PR interval of about .28 seconds (280 ms).  There is a right bundle branch block.  The ECG criteria for right bundle branch block are:  supraventricular rhythm, wide QRS (120 ms in this case), rSR’ pattern in V1, and  a small, wide S wave in Leads I and V6.  There is actually a “terminal delay”, or extra wave at the end of each QRS complex, reflecting late repolarization of the right ventricle. 

This ECG also shows a left anterior fascicular block, also called left anterior hemiblock.  The left bundle branch usually has two main branches, the anterior-superior and the posterior-inferior.  ECG criteria for left anterior fascicular block are: left axis deviation with a small r wave in Lead III and a small q waves with tall R waves in Leads I and aVL.  There is also a prolonged R wave peak time (> 45 ms) in aVL. There is usually a slightly prolonged QRS, but in this case, there is widening of the QRS due to the RBBB.   Because the right bundle branch is blocked, and one fascicle of the left bundle is blocked, the patient is said to have a “bifascicular block”.  Only one fascicle remains available for conduction from the atria to the ventricles.

We have no information about what caused the conduction block in these two fascicles, but should the third fascicle fail, the patient will be in a complete AV block.  An AV block at the level of the bundle branches will result in an idioventricular escape rhythm – wide QRS complexes with very slow rates – which is a low-output rhythm.  

This patient has also had syncope, which was determined to be related to his bradycardia.  He had an AV sequential pacemaker implanted and did well.

Right Bundle Branch Block With Left Posterior Fascicular Block

Mon, 05/13/2013 - 08:09 -- Dawn

This is a good clear example of right bundle branch block with left posterior fascicular block.  The RBBB is diagnosed by the following criteria:  wide QRS (.12 sec), supraventricular rhythm (NSR), an rsR' pattern in V1, and wide little s waves in I and V6.  The LPFB is inferred by the right axis deviation (Lead III QRS is a bit taller than Lead II and Leads I and aVL are negative), and the fact that there is no other obvious cause for right axis shift noted in this patient.  This constitutes a BIFASCICULAR BLOCK.  The ventricles are being depolarized by way of the anterior fascicle.  In addition, there are slight ST elevations in many leads, with an upward coving in the anterior-septal leads (V1, V2, V3).  Depending upon the patient's history and presentation, this could represent a recent M.I. or pending issues. The borderline first-degree AV block may be of concern in this patient, since first-degree AVB is associated with progression of bifascicular block to complete heart block.  Reference:  Ann Card Anaest, 2010 Jan-Apr;13(1):7-15. doi: 10.4103/0971-9784.58828


Anterior Wall M.I. With Bifascicular Block

Fri, 10/19/2012 - 20:46 -- Dawn

This is a good example of acute anterior wall M.I., with ST elevation in V1 through V6, as well as in Leads I and aVL.  The extensive distribution of ST segment elevations across the anterior and high lateral walls indicates a proximal LAD artery occlusion.  In addition, this ECG shows right bundle branch block, with a QRS width of 144 ms (.14 sec.) and an rsR' pattern in V1. There is also a wide s wave in Lead I which is partly obscurred in V6 by the ST elevation.  The right axis deviation (98 degrees) suggests a left posterior fascicular block which, when coupled with the RBBB, is a bi-fascicular block.  P waves are difficult to see.  Do you think they are found at the end of the QRS complexes, representing a long first-degree AVB?  Look at leads V3 through V6 for clues.

Please feel free to add your comments below.  The more "gurus" the better.

A good ECG to teach your students that a patient facing a life-threatening emergency may have a "normal" rate and regular rhythm.  There is something in this ECG for beginners through advanced students.

Sinus Rhythm With Non-Conducted Atrial Bigeminy

Tue, 06/26/2012 - 20:02 -- Dawn

Jason's Blog: ECG Challenge of the Week, 6-8-12     INTERPRETATION:


1)  In first half of strip: Normal sinus rhythm (rate = 100/min) with . . .

2)  . . . bifascicular block—right bundle-branch block plus left anterior hemiblock 

      (RBBB + LAHB), left axis deviation (LAD) at -57 degrees.

3)   In second half of strip: Sinus rhythm interrupted by a run of nonconducted atrial bigeminy  (arrows (↓); see laddergram).


Jason E. Roediger, CCT, CRAT


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