Question Of The Day #27

question of the day
qod27
756.1 - palpitation - SOB

Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?

This patient has a narrow-complex, regular tachycardia that is causing the sensation of palpitations. The clinical history, rapid heart rate, and 12-lead EKG provide enough information to diagnose this patient with supraventricular tachycardia, also known as “SVT.” Supraventricular tachycardias refer to a broad range of arrhythmias, including sinus tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, multifocal atrial tachycardia, and AV nodal re-entry tachycardia. This scenario specifically depicts an AV nodal re-entry tachycardia (AVNRT). AVNRT is a common type of SVT that can occur spontaneously or is triggered by sympathomimetic agents (i.e., cocaine, amphetamines), caffeine, alcohol, exercise, or beta-2 agonists using in asthma treatment (i.e., albuterol, salbutamol). AVNRTs are narrow-complex tachycardias with rates that range from 120-280bpm. P waves are typically absent in AVNRTs, but rarely they may be present as retrograde inverted P waves located immediately before or after the QRS complex. Symptoms experienced by the AVNRT patient may include pre-syncope, syncope, dizziness, palpitations, anxiety, or mild shortness of breath. Patients with AVNRTs are more likely to be young and female over male.

QRS complexes in AVNRTs are often narrow (<120msec), however, wide QRS complexes may be present in AVNRTs if there is a concurrent bundle branch block or Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome. AVNRTs are often stable and do not require electric cardioversion. Signs that indicate instability and necessitate cardioversion are hypotension (SBP <90mmHg), altered mental status, or ischemic chest pain (more common if known history of ischemic heart disease). This patient lacks all of these signs and symptoms.

Treatment of AVNRT focuses on restoring the patient to normal sinus rhythm, which leads to resolution of symptoms. First-line medications for AVNRTs are short-acting AV nodal blocking agents, like adenosine (Choice A). Beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers act as second-line agents for patients who do not respond to adenosine. Metoprolol is a beta-blocker (Choice C) and Diltiazem is a calcium channel clocker (Choice D). Prior to any medications, vagal maneuvers should always be attempted first in a stable patient with AVNRT. The Valsalva maneuver (Choice B), or “bearing down,” is a commonly used vagal maneuver in the termination of AVNRTs. Other vagal maneuvers include the carotid massage or the Diving reflex (place bag of ice and water on face). Correct Answer: B

References

  • 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&sectionid=218687685
  • Burns, E. (2020). Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). Life in the Fast Lane. Retrieved from https://litfl.com/supraventricular-tachycardia-svt-ecg-library/

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #27," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, February 19, 2021, https://iem-student.org/2021/02/19/question-of-the-day-27/, date accessed: October 18, 2021

The EKG Case of No Symptoms

the ecg case of no symptoms

Case Presentation

A 52-year-old woman presents to the ED from an outpatient dialysis center with a rather vague history. She has no symptoms and feels normal, but she was told something “was either too low or too high” on her vital signs at dialysis, so dialysis staff did not perform her scheduled dialysis session. No one had called ahead to alert the emergency department, and the patient had driven herself to the ED, as she was instructed. Vitals show a normal temperature, respiratory rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure of 102/47 mm Hg, and a heart rate of 138 beats per minute. The physical exam is normal besides a mild regular tachycardia and a working AV dialysis fistula on the right arm. EKG is done, and a representative portion is shown below:

EKG from the prior year is shown for comparison.

How would you interpret the first EKG, and what are your next steps?

Discussion

While you are thinking, I will discuss a few of my practical observations from working in the pit. I want to focus not so much on the diagnosis but on working with these types of scenarios.

Treat the patient and not the chief complaint, vitals, labs, EKGs, studies, or referral information.

When they are feeling great and have no symptoms, they are feeling great and have no symptoms! Your nurses will not necessarily think this way, but one does not feel great while having a real STEMI apparent on the triage EKG. So what is it then, if the patient is here for a contact lens stuck in their eye, but has an EKG STEMI? Worst case – a prior STEMI that never corrected or evolved on the EKG. A ventricular aneurysm? Leads misplaced? Did your EKG tech do an EKG on themselves? A silent MI can occur, but an incidental STEMI is unlikely. 

Of course, the patient has to be alert, competent, and not intoxicated. They should not be lying about or hiding their symptoms and should not have a secondary interest like the need to make it to a daughter’s wedding - live or die. The easiest thing is to ask directly.

What is the rhythm's rate doing when it is left alone?

Afibs and MATs will tend to vary greatly in the second to second heart rate, sinus tachycardias will fluctuate some, while A-flutters and SVTs will tend to stick to a single number no matter what you do and no matter if the patient is walking, talking, or snoozing. Stable Vtachs will depend on a number of factors like being monomorphic or polymorphic – but we are talking about narrow QRS dysrhythmias or ones with an obvious bundle. 

So if you cannot tell from the EKG – observe what the thing does while left alone. As long as the patient is otherwise stable or has had symptoms for a while, you have some time.

Adenosine – not just for SVT conversion

“SVT = adenosine” should not be an automatic equation. First of all, there are contraindications to adenosine based on past history or current medications taken. But adenosine can also be used to “stretch out” weird or equivocal fast rhythms to make flutter waves or hidden P waves come out, so you can see and diagnose the arrhythmia vs. sinus. 

You have to have continuous EKG recording going or printing the monitor strip to spot the temporary effect.

Hypotension + tachy-dysrhythmia: does not necessarily add up to Joules.

The textbook mantra of shocking any dysrhythmia associated with hypotension does not hold up in reality. In reality, you will find that most of your Afibs with a rapid response, your new-onset atrial flutters and your SVTs will have a lousy blood pressure: systolic of 80s and 90s are almost to be expected, and may even dip down to 70s on occasion. It also depends on a prior BP baseline, if the person is petite or dehydrated. But if the patient is mentating well and is not suffocating or experiencing crushing chest pain with diaphoresis, please don’t feel like you have to shock them. The body is not used to the new arrhythmia, and the rapid rate compromises the cardiac output. 

Yes, you can still use your rate and rhythm controllers. Give the patient a gentle fluid bolus if you must. Of course, pacer pads do have to be on ahead of time.

Be afraid of shocking dialysis patients. Check electrolytes.

Hypotension with normal mentation is much better than a PEA arrest. Shocking extremes of electrolyte and acid/base abnormalities, whether due to TCA and other overdoses or in dialysis patients, will give you exactly that. This is especially true for the so-called “slow-X” arrhythmias: slow Afib, slow SVT, or even V-slow (Vtach with a rate of 130) that dialysis patients like to present in. 

Just like airplane travel in transportation, electricity is in general the safest rhythm conversion strategy. But there are exceptions, and you only need to crash once.

A-flutter and the stuck rate of 150

You already know this, but just as a reminder. If the rate is a steady 150, plus or minus, and it is stuck there, you should think of atrial flutter. 

Even if you do not see obvious classic flutter waves, there is a high chance of 2:1 conduction. In this case, I thought of it. Fortunately, it did not think of me.

Adenosine (again)….the 6, the 12…the 24??

Sometimes adenosine is not pushed correctly, but sometimes it just does not work or only works for a few seconds. Sometimes the patient’s Mom knows best what works, so you should listen. Sometimes the last time it was used, the patient really did feel like they were going to die – so they do not ever want it again. Ever. That you should try 6mg, then 12mg, then stop is generally true, but it is also a dead-end. What is your back up plan? Electricity? In the past I have given the doses in reverse, combined 6mg with the Valsalva maneuver and had given a preemptive beta-blocker or calcium channel blocker dose 10-15 minutes before adenosine to massage a stubborn heart into adenosine submission. It is ok to experiment a little. Another practical point – how much does your ED freak an SVT patient out while he or she is being triaged and roomed? I still do not completely understand why an SVT tends to be rushed up in the same fashion as a STEMI with cardiogenic shock and bradycardia, judging from staff adrenaline levels. 

Calm the patient down, turn the lights off and let them change. It's like a kid with croup. Remember, it is lack of the sympathetic influx that we want, not an excess. Otherwise, why try the Valsalva at all? Has anyone attempted a stellate ganglion block Vfib-style for a refractory SVT? An overkill, I know….but could be fun, and practice for the real deal.

Aren’t all AVNRTs verapamil sensitive?

Years ago, in my first year of solo practice, I had a case of a refractory SVT in a young teenager, which a pediatric cardiologist consulting by phone called a “verapamil-sensitive AVNRT” based on the EKG alone. I was impressed. Hours later, I decided to flash my newly acquired cool knowledge and relayed the same to my in-house cardiologist, who looked at me with a grin and a raised eyebrow and said, “Anthony, all AVNRTs are verapamil sensitive”. At that time, I was also sensitive, and so my feelings were hurt. Lately I have gotten into the habit of treating my SVTs with diltiazem – as a purer verapamil relative. With generally good results and no need to stand in front of the patient during administration by the nurse. 

The bottom line is – you have choices. Especially, if the patient is already on a beta-blocker or a calcium channel blocker, give them a beta or a calcium blocker IV, see what happens.

Case Concluded

Despite a single nadir of blood pressure of 75 systolic, the rest holding steadily in the high 90s, the patient received a single dose of IV diltiazem and a small IV fluid bolus. Labs reviewed prior showed normal potassium, calcium, sodium, magnesium and the rest of them. Her average heart rate reduced to about 106 and a repeat EKG is shown, accidentally capturing an event: 

She, of course, had a “verapamil sensitive” SVT. The patient’s new right bundle block had also improved to an incomplete, proving to be either SVT- or rate-related. The patient had never experienced any symptoms while in the ED. She was observed for a short time, scheduled for an out-of-sequence dialysis the next day and discharged home with a normal heart rate. I guess, in this case, we did treat the EKG and not the patient.

Cite this article as: Anthony Rodigin, USA, "The EKG Case of No Symptoms," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, October 26, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/10/26/the-ekg-case-of-no-symptoms/, date accessed: October 18, 2021

Want to read more, take a look this post from September

Drop the Beat! – Adenosine in SVT

Drop the Beat! – Adenosine in SVT

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is defined as a dysrhythmia that originates proximal to (or ‘above’) the atrioventricular (AV) node of the heart. It commonly manifests as a regular, narrow complex (QRS interval < 120ms) tachycardia in affected patients. It is most frequently attributable to re-entrant electrical conduction through accessory pathways in the heart, with typical Electrocardiogram (ECG) findings depicting ventricular rates of 150 to 250 beats/min without the preceding P wave usually seen in sinus tachycardias. [1,2]

In the stable adult patient presenting with SVT, where no ‘red flags’ such as shock, altered mental state, ischemic chest pain or hypotension are present, management typically begins with an attempt to convert the rhythm back to its baseline sinus state using vagal manoeuvres.[3] Vagal manoeuvres such as the carotid sinus massage and the Valsalva manoeuvre are effective first-line therapies, terminating approximately 25% of spontaneous SVTs,[4] with the newer, modified Valsalva manoeuvre showing even greater efficacy of 43% conversion.[5] When these fail or are otherwise not feasible to use in patients, management involves the administration of a drug called Adenosine.

The Evolution of Adenosine Use for SVT

In 1927, studies found that the injection of extracts from cardiac tissue into animals appeared to decrease heart rates and that this effect was attributable to an ‘adenine compound’.[6] This compound was later identified as Adenosine, comprised of the purine-based nucleobase Adenine attached to a ribose sugar. Fifty years after its initial discovery, Adenosine began to emerge as a treatment for stabilizing SVTs and has remained a mainstay in its management ever since.[7]

Current guidelines recommend Adenosine for the management of SVT, usually administered through a peripheral intravenous (IV) access initially as a 6 mg bolus. Adenosine has an extremely short half-life (less than 10 seconds) and is therefore rapidly metabolized soon after it enters the body.[8] Therefore, IV dosage is commonly followed by a 20 mL rapid saline flush to facilitate the drug’s transport to cardiac tissue where it can act before being broken down into inactive metabolites. If the 6mg dose does not convert the SVT back to sinus rhythm, subsequent doses are given at 12 mg, also followed by 20-mL saline for rapid infusion.

Pro-Tip: Single syringe technique

Before we dive into the concept of the single syringe method of administering Adenosine, take a look at the segment above. How would you give 6 mg of Adenosine through an IV site, making sure a total of 20 mL saline follows right after, in enough time to make sure you don’t waste that precious 10-second half-life of Adenosine? In many places, one of the two methods are used to make this happen:

  1. Use an IV line to push Adenosine > remove syringe > push 10 mL saline using a pre-filled syringe > remove syringe > push 10mL saline using a second pre-filled syringe.
  2. Fancier places use what’s known as a stopcock, a device usually with 3 ports attached to the IV site. Adenosine syringe is attached to one port and a 10 mL saline flush is attached at a separate port. The process looks something like this: Push adenosine through stopcock port > turn stopcock to open saline port’s access to IV site > push 10 mL saline flush > push an additional 10 mL saline using second syringe or remainder of a 20 mL prefilled syringe.

Now we all know that nurses are indistinguishable from ninjas at times when handling IV medication. However, even the most experienced practitioner is not immune to the occasional stumble when switching between the various syringes and swivels required in the methods above. In fact, a study in 2018 found that, in pediatric patients, adenosine given using the stopcock method delivered suboptimal doses.[9]

In an attempt to improve administration time, a potential work-around was proposed where adenosine could be combined with the flush solution in one 20 mL syringe and pushed altogether.[10] This potentially eliminates any time wasted changing syringes and manipulating stopcocks, but does it still work the same? Fortunately, a few studies have demonstrated the feasibility of the single syringe method, with non-inferior efficacy compared to standard methods of drug administration.[11,12]

Caveats: Coffee Conundrums

Let’s talk a bit about dosage. We mentioned above that guidelines recommend starting at 6 mg and moving to 12 mg for subsequent dosages. These dosages assume uninhibited action of adenosine at its receptors which, unfortunately, may not always be the case in patients. What would inhibit adenosine’s activity, I hear you ask? You’ll want to put down that Caramel Macchiato because the answer (pause for dramatic effect) … is coffee – caffeine to be exact.

Caffeine is known to work by antagonizing adenosine receptors, thereby decreasing adenosine’s biologic effect.[13] A component in many frequently consumed beverages, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and sodas, and with a half-life of approximately 4-5 hours, caffeine is very likely to be present in the bloodstreams of many Emergency Department patients (and doctors). A 2010 multi-centre study in Australia found that recent ingestion of caffeine less than 4 hours prior to a 6 mg adenosine bolus significantly reduced its effectiveness in treating SVT. [14]

This makes it all the more important to not only include information on any known recent beverage consumption during history taking for patients presenting with SVT, but also to potentially increase dosage for patients with a confirmed or suspected recent ingestion of caffeine. In such cases, it would be reasonable to start at 12 mg adenosine as the first dose, followed by 18 mg subsequent dosages to manage SVT.[15]

A 2010 multi-centre study in Australia found that recent ingestion of caffeine less than 4 hours prior to a 6 mg adenosine bolus significantly reduced its effectiveness in treating SVT.

References and Further Reading

  1. Bibas, L., Levi, M., & Essebag, V. (2016). Diagnosis and management of supraventricular tachycardias. CMAJ : Canadian Medical Association journal = journal de l’Association medicale canadienne, 188(17-18), E466–E473. https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.160079
  2. Mahtani, A. U., & Nair, D. G. (2019). Supraventricular Tachycardia. The Medical clinics of North America, 103(5), 863–879. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mcna.2019.05.007
  3. Advanced Cardiac Life Support Provider Manual, American Heart Association, Mesquite 2016
  4. Lim, S. H., Anantharaman, V., Teo, W. S., Goh, P. P., & Tan, A. (1998). Comparison of Treatment of Supraventricular Tachycardia by Valsalva Maneuver and Carotid Sinus Massage. Annals of emergency medicine, 31(1), 30–35.
  5. Appelboam, A., Reuben, A., Mann, C., Gagg, J., Ewings, P., Barton, A., Lobban, T., Dayer, M., Vickery, J., Benger, J., & REVERT trial collaborators (2015). Postural modification to the standard Valsalva manoeuvre for emergency treatment of supraventricular tachycardias (REVERT): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet (London, England), 386(10005), 1747–1753. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(15)61485-4
  6. Drury, A. N., & Szent-Györgyi, A. (1929). The physiological activity of adenine compounds with especial reference to their action upon the mammalian heart. The Journal of physiology, 68(3), 213–237. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.1929.sp002608
  7. Delacrétaz E. (2006). Clinical practice. Supraventricular tachycardia. The New England journal of medicine, 354(10), 1039–1051. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMcp051145
  8. Kazemzadeh-Narbat, M., Annabi, N., Tamayol, A., Oklu, R., Ghanem, A., & Khademhosseini, A. (2015). Adenosine-associated delivery systems. Journal of drug targeting, 23(7-8), 580–596. https://doi.org/10.3109/1061186X.2015.1058803
  9. Weberding, N. T., Saladino, R. A., Minnigh, M. B., Oberly, P. J., Tudorascu, D. L., Poloyac, S. M., & Manole, M. D. (2018). Adenosine Administration With a Stopcock Technique Delivers Lower-Than-Intended Drug Doses. Annals of emergency medicine, 71(2), 220–224. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.annemergmed.2017.09.002
  10. Hayes, B.D. (2019). ‘Trick of the Trade: Combine Adenosine with the Flush’. Academic Life in Emergency Medicine Blog Post https://www.aliem.com/trick-of-trade-combine-adenosine-single-syringe/
  11. Choi, S.C., Yoon, S.K., Kim, G.W., Hur, J.M., Baek, K.W., & Jung, Y.S. (2003). A Convenient Method of Adenosine Administration for Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia. Journal of the Korean society of emergency medicine, 14, 224-227.
  12. McDowell, M., Mokszycki, R., Greenberg, A., Hormese, M., Lomotan, N., & Lyons, N. (2020). Single-syringe Administration of Diluted Adenosine. Academic emergency medicine : official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, 27(1), 61–63. https://doi.org/10.1111/acem.13879
  13. Ribeiro, J. A., & Sebastião, A. M. (2010). Caffeine and adenosine. Journal of Alzheimer’s disease : JAD, 20 Suppl 1, S3–S15. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2010-1379
  14. Cabalag, M. S., Taylor, D. M., Knott, J. C., Buntine, P., Smit, D., & Meyer, A. (2010). Recent caffeine ingestion reduces adenosine efficacy in the treatment of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Academic emergency medicine : official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, 17(1), 44–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2009.00616.x
  15. Hayes, B.D. (2012). ‘Is the 6-12-12 adenosine approach always correct?’ Academic Life in Emergency Medicine Blog Post https://www.aliem.com/is-6-12-12-adenosine-approach-always/
Cite this article as: Mohammad Anzal Rehman, UAE, "Drop the Beat! – Adenosine in SVT," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, September 14, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/09/14/adenosine-in-svt/, date accessed: October 18, 2021

Question Of The Day #10

question of the day
qod10 palpitation

Which of the following is the most appropriate next step in management for this patient’s condition?

This patient has a narrow-complex tachycardia with a regular rhythm. A narrow QRS complex is defined as a QRS interval less than 120msec. This is a normal finding. The differential diagnoses for regular narrow complex tachycardia include sinus tachycardia, atrial tachycardia, atrial flutter, and supraventricular tachycardia (“SVT”). SVTs are typically associated with narrow QRS complexes, unless there is a concurrent bundle branch block, other aberrant conduction, or the existence of electrical accessory pathways as in Wolff Parkinson White (WPW) syndrome. The heart rate of an SVT can vary from 140-280 beats/min. Intravenous Adenosine (Choice A) is a hallmark of SVT treatment, however, Adenosine is given after vagal maneuvers have been attempted and have failed. Synchronized cardioversion (Choice B) is a last-ditch effort treatment in a patient with SVT. Vagal maneuvers and medications are attempted prior to using cardioversion. However, if the patient is hypotensive, cardioversion should be employed. Intravenous Amiodarone (Choice C), beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or other antiarrhythmics can be used to terminate SVTs if vagal maneuvers and adenosine are not effective. Vagal maneuvers (Choice D), such as the Valsalva maneuver (“bearing down”) or carotid massage, are the initial treatment for SVTs. Correct Answer: D 

References

Burns, E. (2019, March 30). Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT). Life in the Fast Lane. https://litfl.com/supraventricular-tachycardia-svt-ecg-library/

Nickson, C. (2019, March 24). Narrow Complex Tachycardia. Life in the Fast Lane. https://litfl.com/narrow-complex-tachycardia/

Cite this article as: Joseph Ciano, USA, "Question Of The Day #10," in International Emergency Medicine Education Project, August 28, 2020, https://iem-student.org/2020/08/28/question-of-the-day-10/, date accessed: October 18, 2021

Acute Management of Supraventricular Tachycardias

Acute management of SVT

The term “supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)” expresses all kinds of rhythms that meet two criteria: Firstly, the atrial rate must be faster than 100 beats per minute at rest. Secondly, the mechanism must involve tissue from the His bundle or above. Mechanism-wise, atrial fibrillation resembles SVTs. However, supraventricular tachycardia traditionally represents tachycardias apart from ventricular tachycardias (VTs) and atrial fibrillation (1,2).

Supraventricular tachycardias are frequent in the ED!

The SVT prevalence is 2.25 per 1000 persons. Women and adults older than 65 years have a higher risk of developing SVT! SVT-related symptoms include palpitations, fatigue, lightheadedness, chest discomfort, dyspnea, and altered consciousness.

How to manage supraventricular tachycardia?

In clinical practice, SVTs are likely to present as narrow regular complex tachycardias. Concomitant abduction abnormalities may cause SVTs to manifest as wide complex tachycardias or irregular rhythms. However, 80% of wide complex tachycardias are VTs. Most importantly, SVT drugs may be harmful to patients with VTs. Therefore, wide complex tachycardias should be treated as VT until proven otherwise (1,2).

The chart below summarizes acute management of regular narrow complex tachycardias:

Acute Management of Regular Narrow Tachycardias

References and Further Reading

  1. Brugada, J., Katritsis, D. G., Arbelo, E., Arribas, F., Bax, J. J., Blomström-Lundqvist, C., … & Gomez-Doblas, J. J. (2019). 2019 ESC Guidelines for the management of patients with supraventricular tachycardia: the Task Force for the management of patients with supraventricular tachycardia of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). European Heart Journal, 00, 1-66.
  2. Page, R. L., Joglar, J. A., Caldwell, M. A., Calkins, H., Conti, J. B., Deal, B. J., … & Indik, J. H. (2016). 2015 ACC/AHA/HRS guideline for the management of adult patients with supraventricular tachycardia: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. Journal of the American College of Cardiology67(13), e27-e115.