Atrioventricular nodal reentry. Clinical, electrophysiological, and therapeutic considerations.
BACKGROUND Atrioventricular (AV) nodal reentry is a relatively common cause of regular, narrow QRS tachycardia. The underlying basis for this arrhythmia is functional (and anatomic) duality of pathways in the region of the AV node, although the exact boundaries of the reentrant circuit have not been convincingly defined. During the more common type of AV nodal reentry (seen in approximately 90% of cases), a slow conducting pathway is used in the anterograde direction, and a fast pathway is operative in the retrograde direction. In the uncommon form, the direction of impulse propagation within the reentrant circuit is reversed. In this article, the clinical, ECG, and electrophysiological features of AV nodal reentry as well as approaches to therapy are discussed.
METHODS AND RESULTS Clinical diagnosis may be made from the surface ECG. In the common type of AV nodal reentry, the P wave is obscured by the QRS or may be present in its terminal portion. The P wave in the uncommon form occurs late (i.e., in or after the T wave), producing a pattern of long RP and short PR. Both forms of AV nodal reentry are controllable with various therapeutic modalities. For acute termination, adenosine is probably the ideal agent. Prevention of recurrences can be achieved with several pharmacological agents, including beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and class Ia, Ic, and III antiarrhythmic agents. Curative therapy is now available with a variety of nonpharmacological methods. However, the most promising therapy at the present time is catheter modification of the AV node by ablation of either the fast or slow pathway, using radiofrequency energy. Ablation of the fast pathway carries a higher risk of second- or third-degree AV block. Slow pathway ablation, by providing a high rate of success and minimal risk of AV block, seems to be a more acceptable initial approach.
CONCLUSIONS AV nodal reentry is a common cause of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, and a precise diagnosis can be made with intracardiac electrophysiological evaluation. Although the arrhythmia responds to a variety of antiarrhythmic agents, curative therapy can now be offered with catheter modification of the AV node using radiofrequency energy. At the time of this writing, it seems that catheter modification of the AV node is rapidly becoming the therapy of initial choice in patients with symptomatic AV nodal reentrant tachycardia requiring treatment.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association