This 78-year-old woman is wheeled into the Emergency Department by her son because she is too weak to walk. She is normally ambulatory and energetic. Over the past hour or so she has felt “extremely weak and tired.” She states “my whole body hurts and I just want to go to sleep.” PMHX: Severe arthritis, CVA 10+ years ago and Insulin dependent diabetes. Medications include: “a couple of heart pills” and insulin. She is supposed to take aspirin daily but hasn’t for some time as it bothers her stomach.
Exam reveals an “ill looking” woman who is slow to respond. She is appropriate with her answers but very sluggish. She is pale and slightly diaphoretic. Her radial pulses are absent, carotids are palpable at a rate of approximately 40 bpm. Her blood pressure is difficult to hear, but registers 68/40 on the automated cuff. The pulse oximetry will not pick up on her finger. Her ECG is above.
This patient’s cardiac rhythm is:
This ECG Reveals:
Immediate Treatment should include:
This woman’s rhythm is complete heart block. The reason that the heart rate is maintained in the 40’s and the QRS complex is narrow is because the underlying rhythm is originating in the AV Node (Junctional Escape Rhythm) rather than the ventricle which would result in a much slower and wider rhythm.
Anytime a patient presents with extreme bradycardia, DIES should come to mind to assist with diagnosis. Drugs Ischemia/Infarction, Electrolytes, Sick Sinus Syndrome.
In our patient’s case, we are dealing with infarction. This ECG reveals a posterior wall infarction. Note the ST depression in V1-V3.
Posterior MI is suggested by the following changes in V1-3:
This patient’s symptoms are most likely caused by her bradycardia. Treatment of this patient should include.
Written by Judith Haluka and last updated May 11, 2015
Last reviewed by Amanda Spier, RN, BSN on Mar 29, 2017