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Wide QRS Complex Tachycardia: Reappraisal of a Common Clinical Problem

Akhtar Masood, MD; Shenasa Mohammad, MD, PhD; Jazayeri Mohammad, MD; Jose Caceres, MD; and Tchou Patrick J., MD
[+] Article and Author Information

Requests for Reprints: Masood Akhtar, MD, Sinai Samaritan Medical Center, 950 North 12 Street, Milwaukee, WI 53201.

Current Author Addresses: Drs. Akhtar, Jazayeri, and Tchou: Sinai Samaritan Medical Center, 950 North 12 Street, Milwaukee, WI 53201. Dr. Shenasa: Clinical EP Lab, Centre de Recherche, Hôpital du Sacre-Coeur, 5400 Quest, Boulevard Gouin, Montreal, Quebec H4J 1C5 Canada.

Dr. Caceres: Section of Cardiology, East Carolina University School of Medicine, Greenville, NC 27858-4354.


© 1988 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1988;109(11):905-912. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-109-11-905
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Background and Purpose: Despite available criteria, diagnosis of the mechanisms of wide complex tachycardia is often incorrect. We aimed in this study to identify reasons for misdiagnoses and the value and limitations of clinical and surface electrocardiographic criteria.

Data Identification: The analyzed data of 150 consecutive patients with wide QRS tachycardia from this study and a literature search of key papers in English since 1960 on clinical and surface electrocardiographic criteria form the basis of this report. The final correct diagnosis was made with intracardiac electrograms.

Data Extraction and Analysis: Among the 150 patients, 122 had ventricular tachycardia, 21 had supraventricular tachycardia with aberrant conduction, and 7 had accessory pathway conduction. Only 39 of 122 patients with ventricular tachycardia were correctly diagnosed initially. In others, the diagnoses were supraventricular tachycardia with aberrant conduction (43 of 122) or simply a wide QRS tachycardia (40 of 122). Misdiagnosis in patients with aberrant or accessory pathway conduction was also common. Standard electrocardiographic criteria for ventricular tachycardia had unacceptable sensitivity, poor specificity, or both. Collectively such criteria allowed a correct diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia in 92% of cases. Diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia was also suggested by its association with structural heart disease. Criteria suggestive of ventricular tachycardia included atrioventricular dissociation, positive QRS concordance, axis less than -90 deg to ± 180 deg, combination of left bundle branch block and right axis, QRS duration of greater than 140 ms with right bundle branch block and greater than 160 ms with left bundle branch block and, a different QRS during tachycardia compared to baseline preexisting bundle branch block.

Conclusions: Ventricular tachycardia is the commonest underlying mechanism for wide QRS tachycardia. A correct diagnosis can usually be made from clinical and surface electrocardiographic criteria.

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