Wednesday, 9 August 2017

ECG of the Week - 7th August 2017 - Interpretation

The following ECG is from a 59 yr old female who presented to the Emergency Department complaining of palpitations.

Click to enlarge
  • Mean ventricular rate 144 bpm
  • Irregular
  • Nil regular P waves visible
  • Notching terminal QRS complexes #8 and #9 in aVF 
    • ? fibrillation waves ? Retrograde P ? SA activity
  • Normal
  • QRS - Normal
  • ST Depression leads II, III, aVF, V3-6
  • ST elevation lead aVR
  • T wave inversion leads II, III, aVF


  • Atrial fibrillation
    • Rapid ventricular response
    • ST / T wave changes likely rate-related demand ischaemia

Clinical Factors in Atrial Fibrillation

There are several features to establish on assessment of the patient in atrial fibrillation that will influence both the immediate and long-term management strategies, including:

  • Onset and duration of symptoms
  • Likelihood of paroxysmal episodes
  • Evidence of compromise from AF
    • Chest pain, cardiac failure, hypotension etc.
  • Current medications
    • Especially anti-coagulation and anti-arrhythmics
  • Potential precipitant / cause
    • E.g. sepsis, electrolyte abnormality, endocrine disease
  • Suitability and contra-indications to management options
    • E.g. fasting status, anaesthetic risk, drug allergy / intolerance, bleeding risk

Management Options in Atrial Fibrillation

There are several considerations in the management of AF which include:
  • Rate vs. rhythm control
    • Electrical vs Chemical rhythm control
  • Anti-coagulation
    • Risk vs Benefit
    • Drug to use
  • ? Underlying precipitant
    • Infection / ischaemia / structural / endocrine / metabolic etc.
  • Follow-up / disposition
  • Ablation suitability
Despite being one of the commonest arrhythmia encountered in medicine there is considerable variability in the clinical management of atrial fibrillation. There are a number of international guidelines and protocols regarding AF management, including:
AF Related Calculators (links to MDCalc)
References / Further Reading

Life in the Fast Lane

  • Chan TC, Brady WJ, Harrigan RA, Ornato JP, Rosen P. ECG in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care. Elsevier Mosby 2005.

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