Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?
This patient is suffering from severe bradycardia with signs of poor cardiac output, shock, and diminished perfusion to the brain. Bradycardia is defined as any heart rate under 60 beats/min. Many individuals may be bradycardic at rest with no danger to the patient (i.e. young patients or athletes). Bradycardia in these scenarios is physiologic and is not associated with difficulty in perfusing the brain and other organs. This patient’s 12-lead EKG shows sinus bradycardia since there is a P wave prior to every QRS complex. Sinus bradycardia is the most common type of bradycardia. Other types of bradycardia include conduction blocks (i.e. type 2 or type 3 AV blocks), junctional rhythms (lack of P waves with slow SA nodal conduction), idioventricular rhythms (wide QRS complex rhythms that originate from the ventricles, not atria), or slow atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. About 80% of all bradycardias are caused by factors external to the cardiac conduction system, such as hypoxia, drug effects (i.e. beta block or calcium channel blocker use or overdose), or acute coronary syndromes.
For any patient with a bradyarrhythmia or tachyarrhythmia, it is crucial to determine if the arrythmia is “stable” or “unstable”. Signs that an arrhythmia is unstable include altered mental status, hypotension with systolic blood pressure under 90mmHg, chest pain, or shortness of breath. Patients with a stable arrhythmia can be managed supportively with observation and less invasive medical management. Patients with unstable arrhythmia are managed more aggressively with the use of electricity, often in combination with other medical treatments. This patient has an unstable bradyarrhythmia, given her altered mental status and hypotension. Intravenous metoprolol (Choice D) would make the patient more bradycardic since this medication blocks beta-adrenergic receptors of the heart that control heart rate and contractility. Intravenous Amiodarone (Choice C) is an antiarrhythmic agent used often in wide complex tachyarrhythmias (i.e. Ventricular Tachycardia). Intravenous atropine or epinephrine are agents that can be used in this patient prior to preparing for electric pacing. Transcutaneous pacing (Choice A) should always be attempted prior to Transvenous pacing (Choice B), as Transcutaneous pacing is less invasive and quicker to set up. If Transcutaneous pacing does not result in electrical “capture” or change the heart rate, the next step is Transvenous pacing. Correct Answer: A
- Brady W.J., & Glass III G.F. (2020). Cardiac rhythm disturbances. Tintinalli J.E., Ma O, Yealy D.M., Meckler G.D., Stapczynski J, Cline D.M., & Thomas S.H.(Eds.), Tintinalli’s Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide, 9e. McGraw-Hill. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com/content.aspx?bookid=2353§ionid=218687685
- Burns, E. (2020). Sinus Bradycardia. Life in the Fast Lane. Retrieved from https://litfl.com/sinus-bradycardia-ecg-library/