Today’s ECG is from a 75 year old man who has been experiencing syncope.
Examination of the ECG shows a sinus bradycardia at just under 40 bpm. There is a first-degree AV block, with a PR interval of about .28 seconds (280 ms). There is a right bundle branch block. The ECG criteria for right bundle branch block are: supraventricular rhythm, wide QRS (120 ms in this case), rSR’ pattern in V1, and a small, wide S wave in Leads I and V6. There is actually a “terminal delay”, or extra wave at the end of each QRS complex, reflecting late repolarization of the right ventricle.
This ECG also shows a left anterior fascicular block, also called left anterior hemiblock. The left bundle branch usually has two main branches, the anterior-superior and the posterior-inferior. ECG criteria for left anterior fascicular block are: left axis deviation with a small r wave in Lead III and a small q waves with tall R waves in Leads I and aVL. There is also a prolonged R wave peak time (> 45 ms) in aVL. There is usually a slightly prolonged QRS, but in this case, there is widening of the QRS due to the RBBB. Because the right bundle branch is blocked, and one fascicle of the left bundle is blocked, the patient is said to have a “bifascicular block”. Only one fascicle remains available for conduction from the atria to the ventricles.
We have no information about what caused the conduction block in these two fascicles, but should the third fascicle fail, the patient will be in a complete AV block. An AV block at the level of the bundle branches will result in an idioventricular escape rhythm – wide QRS complexes with very slow rates – which is a low-output rhythm.
This patient has also had syncope, which was determined to be related to his bradycardia. He had an AV sequential pacemaker implanted and did well.