ESSENTIALS OF DIAGNOSIS
Fast, wide QRS complex on ECG.
Associated with ischemic heart disease, particularly in older patients.
In the absence of reversible cause, implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is recommended if meaningful life expectancy is > 1 year.
Ventricular tachycardia is defined as three or more consecutive ventricular premature beats. It is classified as either nonsustained (lasting less than 30 seconds and terminating spontaneously) or sustained with a heart rate greater than 100 beats/min. In individuals without heart disease, nonsustained ventricular tachycardia is generally associated with a benign prognosis. In patients with structural heart disease, nonsustained ventricular tachycardia is associated with an increased risk of subsequent symptomatic ventricular tachycardia and sudden death, especially when seen more than 48 hours after MI.
Ventricular tachycardia is a frequent complication of acute MI and dilated cardiomyopathy but may occur in chronic coronary disease, HCM, myocarditis, and in most other forms of myocardial disease. It can also be a consequence of atypical forms of cardiomyopathies, such as arrhythmogenic RV cardiomyopathy. However, idiopathic ventricular tachycardia can also occur in patients with structurally normal hearts. Accelerated idioventricular rhythm is a regular wide complex rhythm with a rate of 60–120 beats/min, usually with a gradual onset (eFigure 10–71). It occurs commonly in acute infarction and following reperfusion with thrombolytic medications. Treatment is not indicated unless there is hemodynamic compromise or more serious arrhythmias.
Wide complex regular tachycardia. Differential diagnosis includes ventricular tachycardia versus supraventricular tachycardia with aberrancy. Diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia is made using the Brugada criteria and, in this case, noting that the R-S interval is greater than 100 milliseconds. Other Brugada criteria (concordance, A-V dissociation, and morphology criteria) are not met. (Used, with permission, from Jose Sanchez, MD.)
Torsades de pointes, a form of ventricular tachycardia in which QRS morphology twists around the baseline, may occur in the setting of severe hypokalemia, hypomagnesemia, or after administration of a medication that prolongs the QT interval (eFigure 10–72). In nonacute settings, most patients with ventricular tachycardia have known or easily detectable cardiac disease, and the finding of ventricular tachycardia is an unfavorable prognostic sign.
A 12-lead electrocardiogram of torsades de pointes. Unstable rapid polymorphic ventricular tachycardia demonstrating the shifting heights and constantly changing axes of the ventricular complexes. (Reproduced, with permission, from Oropello JM, Pastores SM, Kvetan V. Critical Care. McGraw-Hill, 2017.)
Patients commonly experience palpitations, dyspnea, or lightheadedness, but on rare occasion may be asymptomatic. Syncope or cardiac arrest can be presenting symptoms in patients with underlying cardiac disease or other severe comorbidities. Episodes may be triggered by exercise or emotional stress.