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Dawn's picture

AV Block of Undetermined Type

This strip was obtained from a woman who presented to her doctor’s office with hypertension. While there is some artifact in the baseline, it is possible to determine the presence of P waves, thanks in part to having two leads to assess.  We have provided an unmarked version of the strip for you to use, and also a marked version for the sake of this discussion.

The underlying rhythm is sinus bradycardia, at about 60 bpm, but with some slight variation in the P to P intervals (about 920 ms to 1040 ms). Because of the artifact, it is difficult to determine the exact P to P intervals, and the exact morphology of the P waves. So, we can’t say for sure that the P waves are all alike.

The AV block occurs at a 3:1 ratio.  That is, for every three P waves, one is conducted and produces a QRS complex.  When the P waves are not conducted, an escape rhythm occurs.

The escape rhythm occurs at an escape interval of about 1720 ms.  In other words, when a QRS does not occur by that time, the escape beat is produced.  It appears to be from the AV junction, in spite of the slow rate, because the escape QRSs look like the sinus conducted QRSs.  Both sinus and junctional rhythms are conducted along the bundle branches and produce the same QRS morphology.  The QRS complexes are approximately .08-.10 seconds wide.  Note that QRS complexes numbered 3, 5, and 7 have a P wave fused to the beginning of the QRS, making the QRS look wide when it is not.   A junctional escape rhythm results from AV block in the AV node, as the junction is the first available pacemaker below the AVN. 

This patient was scheduled for a treadmill stress test in her doctor’s office, which was cancelled. She had no cardiac symptoms at the time of the ECG, except the above-noted hypertension.  Unexplained bradycardia, especially when accompanied by AV node blocks, should trigger an assessment for inferior wall M.I., since the inferior wall of the LV shares a blood supply with the SA and AV nodes in the majority of people.

Dawn's picture

An Irregular Bradycardia

Thank you to Alikuni Kllany from Toronto for donating these ECGs.  They are from a 59-year-old man who has a history of hypertension and depression.  Last year, he was on atenolol when he experienced a brief syncopal episode and bradycardia. He was taken off atenolol and started on amlodipine 5 mg.  He also takes ramipril 10 mg, atorvastatin 40 mg, and tamsulosin .4 mg.  He continues to have bradycardia and dizziness. 

The first ECG shows grouped beating, with repetitive groups of two and three complexes.  The P waves are very small, and hard to evaluate.  The best place to see them is in the Lead II rhythm strip at the bottom.  The rhythm strip is not run concurrently with the 12-Lead, making it even more difficult to evaluate P wave morphology. 

The beats that begin the groups also END a pause.  These are junctional escape beats.  After the junctional escape beats, the PR intervals vary.  This can be explained by RP / PR reciprocity, first described by Mobitz.  He demonstrated that the RP interval can affect the next PR interval. Longer RP intervals (slower rate) cause PR shortening.  Shorter RP intervals equal longer PR intervals.  The P waves are so small, it is difficult to determine whether there is a P wave in the last T wave of each group, which would indicate non-conducted PACs.  So, we are left with a sinus pause or sinus exit block (suggested by the timing of the first six beats.  We have used red arrows to suggest where the sinus node probably fired.  P waves indicate conduction, of course.  Lack of P waves, the impulse failed to exit the sinus node. 

There are many mechanisms by which grouped beating can occur.  Second-degree AVB, Type I (Wenckebach) comes to mind first.  That rhythm in it’s pure form would have a regular sinus rhythm underlying it.   Escape-capture bigeminy often occurs with slow rates and junctional escapes, but does not by itself cause “trigeminy”.  Sick sinus syndrome can cause all types of chaos in the rhythm. 

jer5150's picture

Jason's Blog: ECG Challenge of the Week for Feb. 17th - 24th.

Patient's clinical data:  81-year-old black man

The computer interpreted this ECG as: 
Sinus bradycardia 1st degree AV block
ST abnormality, possible digitalis effect
Abnormal ECG
When compared with ECG of (expunged)
PR interval has increased

jer5150's picture

Featured Case Study by Guru member Vince DiGiulio, EMT-CC.

This week, in addition to my own blog, I'm going to feature a guest case study by Guru member Vince DiGiulio, EMT-CC.  This past Monday, Vince messaged me (along with Dr. Ken Grauer) on Facebook and requested my input and opinion on these serial ECGs.  With Vince's blessing, he gave me permission to use any of his original 12-lead ECGs here on the Guru.  Of his 6 ECGs, I've decided to post 4 of them here. 

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