ECG Guru - Instructor Resources

A gathering place for instructors of ECG and cardiac topics.

       

Subscribe to me on YouTube

Third-degree AV block

Displaying 1 - 10 of 18
Dawn's picture

Ask The Expert

Sun, 12/20/2020 - 12:02 -- Dawn

Today's Expert is Dr. Jerry Jones, MD, FACEP, FAAEM                                                                                                                                                             

 Jerry W. Jones, MD FACEP FAAEM is a diplomate of the American Board of Emergency Medicine who has practiced internal medicine and emergency medicine for 35 years.    

Dr. Jones has been on the teaching faculties of the University of Oklahoma and The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He is a published author who has also been featured in the New York Times and the Annals of Emergency Medicine for his work in the developing field of telemedicine. He is also a Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and a Fellow of the American Academy of Emergency Medicine and, in addition, a member of the European Society of Emergency Medicine. 

 Dr. Jones is the CEO of Medicus of Houston and the principal instructor for the Advanced ECG Interpretation Boot Camp and the Advanced Dysrhythmia Boot Camp.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 

Question:  I teach beginner students. How can I explain the complex subject of “AV Blocks”?  I don’t want to teach incorrect information while trying to simplify the subject.

 

 Answer:  AV Blocks Article By Dr. Jerry Jones  (click link)


Dawn's picture

ECG Challenge: Guillain-Barre' Syndrome Patient

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 13:45 -- Dawn

This ECG is probably not for the basic ECG interpretation class.  But, it presents a challenge for the experienced ECG Gurus and instructors out there.  We will leave it here for one week, to allow for comments.  On June 22, we will publish Dr. Jerry Jones’s comments. 

The Patient      This ECG is from a 44-year-old man. He was stricken with Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome when he was 32.  He doesn’t know what his ECGs showed when he was hospitalized with GBS. He knows of no abnormal lab results except for a high CK of 414, attributed to the muscle wasting with GBS.

When he was 43, he started having occasional light-headedness, and was found to have bradycardia around 50 bpm that did not increase with exercise.  A loop recording showed occasional bradycardia over the next several years.  This ECG is now five years old, and the patient says he no longer suffers from bradycardia or lightheadedness, only occasional palpitations and a sensation of “skipped beats”. He lives an active life, albeit with some residual lower extremity weakness from the GBS.

In order to comment on this ECG, it is necessary to “sign in” with an email address.  This is so we can attempt to keep Spammers off the site.  We do not use the email addresses or share them, and we will not contact you. We are looking forward to reading your comments.

Dawn's picture

Shark Fin Pattern

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 21:54 -- Dawn

The Patient:  This ECG is from a 59-year-old woman who was found by the EMS crew to be unresponsive, with agonal respirations at about 6 breaths per minute. Her pulse was thready at the carotid, and absent peripherally. Her skin was pale, cool, and mottled.  Her BP via the monitor is 81/40, peripheral pulses not being palpable.  An initial rhythm strip showed sinus rhythm at 75 bpm with right bundle branch block and ST elevation.

The patient’s husband gave a history of “difficulty breathing” since sometime this morning, alcohol dependence, hypertension, tobacco use, and insomnia. He said she had been drinking heavily for several weeks.

She was immediately ventilated and intubated, and an intraosseous infusion line established.  A12-lead ECG was done, and it showed a dramatic change in the rhythm and ST segments over the initial strip. She was transported to a nearby hospital with CPR support. She achieved return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC) at the Emergency Department, after having three doses of epinephrine.  Follow up with the ED physician revealed that the patient had suffered a massive gastrointestinal bleed.  This patient, due to loss of a critical amount of blood, had low blood pressure and very poor perfusion, which resulted in damage to her heart (and possibly other organs as well). I do not have further follow up, but will update this if I receive more information. 

Dawn's picture

Complete Heart Block

Tue, 12/17/2019 - 18:02 -- Dawn

 


The Patient         This ECG was obtained from a 76-year-old woman who had just lost responsiveness while under care of an EMS crew. This tracing was obtained before a trans-cutaneous pacemaker was applied.

The ECG              The most noticeable feature of this ECG is the extremely slow rate. In fact, there are only two QRS complexes visible. The P waves are regular at a rate of about 145 bpm, so the underlying rhythm is sinus tachycardia.  NONE of the P waves are conducted, as evidenced by the different “PR intervals” in the two QRS complexes seen.  This is complete heart block at it’s most extreme – the QRS complexes represent a very insufficient escape rhythm.  A pacemaker is the only immediate treatment for this rhythm. Unfortunately, we don’t know the outcome for this patient.

It is very difficult to make judgements about the QRS complexes with only two of them, visible in three leads each.  The first set show the criteria for left ventricular hypertrophy.  The QRS in aVL is 20 mm tall, and anything over 11 mm meets voltage criteria for LVH.  In addition, the ST segments have the “strain” pattern, another sign of LVH.  The second QRS complexes are not typical of a normal ECG or one with LVH.  We cannot vouch for the precordial lead placement.

There is some disagreement in the literature regarding the naming of the blocks. Some consider “high-grade” to be only second-degree AVB with two or more consecutive non-conducted P waves. Others include third-degree AVB in the “high-grade” category.  It can come down to just semantics – the RATE and how the patient responds to the rate is the primary consideration.  Classification as to the origin of the block is helpful when determining the best long-term treatment decisions.

This is a good ECG for teaching the concept of AV dissociation, and how dangerous third-degree AV blocks and high-grade second-degree AV blocks can be.  

 

Dawn's picture

Inferior Wall M.I. With Wide QRS and Complete AV Block

Wed, 06/28/2017 - 14:13 -- Dawn

This ECG is from a 66-year-old woman who called 911 for a complaint of chest pain for the past four hours. She also complained of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea for that time. She was pale and diaphoretic, and her BP was 77/43 sitting up, improving to 90/54 reclining. She denied “cardiac” history.  Her medications included:  aspirin, an SSRI, cilostazol, amlodipine, umeclidinium and vilanterol inhaler, atorvastatin, levothyroid, and metoprolol. We don’t have a previous ECG.  The EMS crew followed their chest pain protocol and delivered the patient to a facility with an interventional cath lab, but they did not designate a “STEMI Alert” because of the wide QRS.  It is their protocol to use the term “STEMI Alert” only when no M.I. mimics, such as left bundle branch block, are present. 

What does this ECG show?     There is an underlying sinus rhythm at 75 bpm.  There is AV dissociation, with regular, wide QRS complexes at a rate of 44 bpm.   This meets the criteria for complete heart block (third-degree AV block).  The morphology of the QRS complexes meets the criteria for left bundle branch block (wide, upright in Leads I and V6, negative in V1).  At a rate of 44 bpm, several options for this escape rhythm are possible:  1)  junctional escape with LBBB, 2) junctional escape with intraventricular conduction delay due to AMI,  and 3) idioventricular escape rhythm.   Also, in the presence of IWMI, AV node ischemia is very likely, resulting in AV blocks at the level of the AV node.  CHB at the AV node would result in junctional escape rhythm, and CHB below that, in the fascicles of the bundle branches, would result in idioventricular escape. The issue for this patient, and ANY patient, is cardiac output, and we see several reasons for cardiac output to be lower:

·         Wide QRS

Dawn's picture

Complete AV Block With Junctional Escape Rhythm

Thu, 10/27/2016 - 14:29 -- Dawn

This ECG is from a 78-year-old woman.  We do not know any clinical details.

 We break from our usual habit of removing the ECG machine’s interpretation of the ECG to serve as a reminder that the computer interpretation can be wrong.  ECGs should ALWAYS be interpreted by a knowledgeable person.  The machine interpretation can serve as a reminder, but should not take the place of human interpretation. 

Here is what we DO see:  There is a normal sinus rhythm present, as evidenced by the regular P waves that do not change their morphology.  Some of the P waves are “buried” behind QRS or T waves.  The atrial rate is 95 bpm. 

The ventricular rhythm, at 40 bpm, is also regular, but is separate from the atrial rhythm.  Even though some of the P waves LOOK like they have conducted to produce QRS complexes, they have not.  The PRIs are not all the same.  Neither do they “progressively prolong”.  There is no irregularity of the QRS rhythm or variation in QRS morphology.  We see the classic “AV DISSOCIATION” of complete heart block. 

When there is a third-degree AV block with a narrow-QRS escape rhythm, we can assume the block is in the AV node.  The junction is the escape focus, producing a narrow-complex rhythm between approximately 40-60 bpm.  In this case, the QRS is slightly wide at 112 ms (.11 sec), and the QRS complexes in several leads are fragmented.  Some might argue that there is an idioventricular escape mechanism.  But, with a normal frontal plane axis, borderline width,  and no T wave inversions, the rhythm looks more supraventricular.  The R wave progresson on the precordial leads shows a persistently negative QRS with late transition in V5.  The QRS complexes in V1 and V2 appear to have pathological Q waves.  When R wave progression is not normal, we should also consider electrode misplacement. 

Dawn's picture

ECG Basics: Third-degree AV Block, Complete Heart Block

Wed, 11/18/2015 - 12:31 -- Dawn

This rhythm strip shows third-degree AV block, also called complete heart block or complete AV block.  The P waves are from the sinus node, and are regular at a rate of about 120/min. (Sinus tachycardia). This is a good strip for showing your students how to "march out" the P waves to find the ones that are hidden behind QRS complexes or T waves. Knowing that the P waves are regular, it is easy to find the hidden ones.

The QRS complexes are wide at 0.14 seconds, and regular, with a rate of about 28/min.  On first glance, it APPEARS that there are PR intervals.  That is, it appears that some of the P waves are conducting. If you measure the PR intervals carefully, you will note that they are NOT equal.  There is no connection between the P waves and the QRS complexes - this strip has just caught them near each other.  If we ran the strip longer, we would see the PR intervals "come apart", proving they are not real.  The QRS complexes are coming from an IDIOVENTRICULAR ESCAPE RHYTHM.  They are regular, wide, have no P waves associated with them, and the rate is below 40 bpm.

Patients with CHB that results in a very slow heart rate sometimes need emergency treatment aimed at increasing the rate.  When the escape rhythm is idioventricular, it is assumed that the AV block is located below the AV node, and emergency temporary pacing is often the method of choice.  In fact, a permanent implanted pacemaker is almost always needed.  When the AV block is located in the AV node, the escape rhythm will be junctional (narrow QRS complexes, rate about 40-60 bpm).     

 

Dawn's picture

Complete AV Block With Junctional Escape Rhythm

Thu, 09/03/2015 - 23:02 -- Dawn

This ECG was taken from a 90-year-old woman.  We have no other history, unfortunately.  It is a good example of a sinus rhythm with complete AV block, also called third-degree AV block.

The defining characteristics of this rhythm include:   1) an underlying rhythm that is regular and with a physiological rate.  In other words, the P waves are not so fast that they would not be expected to conduct one-to-one.  2)  a second rhythm of regular QRS complexes that is unrelated to the P waves.

Occasionally, a P wave may occur before a QRS and appear to have a PR interval.  This is just a chance meeting, as both rhythms (P waves and QRS complexes) are regular AT DIFFERENT RATES, so we would expect them to occur near each other from time to time.  NONE of the P waves are being conducted to the ventricles to produce QRS complexes. This is a good ECG to demonstrate "marching out" the P waves to see that they are very regular, even though some are hidden in the QRS, ST segment, or T waves.

In this case, the "escape rhythm" occurs from the AV junction.  The AV junctional pacemakers are "set" at a rate of about 40 - 60 beats per minute.  Normally, the sinus rhythm arrives in the AV junction faster than that, depolarizing the junctional pacemakers and preventing them from firing spontaneously.  In complete AV block, the atrial impulse never arrives, so the junctional pacemaker is free to "escape" and become the primary pacemaker of the heart.  We recognize this rhythm as junctional because the QRS complexes are narrow, and the rate is around 40 bpm.  Knowing that the escape rhythm is from the junction tells us that the AV block is in the AV node.  The AV junction is the first available pacemaker below the block.  Had the complete AV block been lower, in the bundle branches, the QRS would have come from the ventricles and would have been wide and slower.

In very general terms, this "supra-Hisian" type of AV block is preferable to a "sub-Hisian" block.  The rate is faster, and the QRS complexes narrow, both conditions causing a better cardiac output than wide QRS complexes and extremely slow rates.  However, the effect of the block on the patient has a lot to do with the cause of the block and the symptoms the slow rate cause.  Emergency treatment of the rate may be necessary if it causes a drop in blood pressure and perfusion.  Some patients with this type of block will need a permanent implanted pacemaker, but not all. 

 

Dawn's picture

Complete AV Block

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 14:26 -- Dawn

This ECG is from an 84-year-old man who experienced dizziness and a fall.  He was not injured in the fall.  In this ECG, we can clearly see regular P waves at about 110 per minute.  We also see wide QRS complexes at about 52 per minute.  There is AV  dissociation - there are no regular PR intervals, or even progressively-prolonging PR intervals.  The atrial and the ventricles are beating to separate rhythms.  What is interesting about this rhythm is the origin of the escape rhythm.  The wide complex suggests a ventricular focus and the rate suggests supraventricular origin.  Near the end of the ECG, the escape rhythm either fails or slows significantly.  To see the next 12-lead ECG for this patient, go to this LINK.

The second ECG makes it more clear that this is an idioventricular escape rhythm, but the morphology of the QRS complexes suggested that, even in the first ECG when the rate was faster.  There are several clues that this is probably ventricular, including a very "backward" axis with aVR being upright and II, III, and aVF all being negative.  Also, V6 is negative, and there is nearly precordial concordance:  all except V1 are negative.  The morphology of the QRS does not fit a diagnosis of either left bundle branch block OR right bundle branch block.  The evidence points to a ventricular origin for this escape rhythm, and the patient quickly goes on to slow down severely.  Ventricular escape rhythm strongly suggests a sub-Hisian location for the block, and they tend to be more life-threatening than supra-Hisian blocks.

The take-home clinical lesson here is to BE PREPARED for worsening of the rate whenever AV block is present, especially high-grade AV block or sub-Hisian block.  This ECG is a very good one for teaching students to "march out" P waves, and find "hidden" P waves.  We have included a marked copy of this ECG to indicate those P waves.

Thanks to Sebastian Garay for donating these ECGs.

 

Pages

All our content is FREE & COPYRIGHT FREE for non-commercial use

Please be courteous and leave any watermark or author attribution on content you reproduce.

Subscribe to Third-degree AV block