The major ECG rhythms classified as bradycardia include:
- Sinus Bradycardia
- First-degree AV block
- Second-degree AV block
- Type I —Wenckebach/Mobitz I
- Type II —Mobitz II
- Third-degree AV block complete block
The decision point for ACLS intervention in the bradycardia algorithm is determination of adequate perfusion. For the patient with adequate perfusion, observe and monitor the patient. If the patient has poor perfusion, preparation for transcutaneous pacing should be initiated, and an assessment of contributing causes (H’s and T’s) should be carried out.
Click below to view the bradycardia algorithm diagram. When finished, click again to close the diagram. Bradycardia Algorithm Diagram
Transcutaneous pacing (TCP)
Preparation for TCP takes place as atropine is being given. If atropine fails to alleviate symptomatic bradycardia, TCP is initiated. Ideally, the patient receives sedation prior to pacing, but if the patient is deteriorating rapidly, it may be necessary to start TCP prior to sedation.
For the patient with symptomatic bradycardia with signs of poor perfusion, transcutaneous pacing is the treatment of choice.
Do not delay TCP for the patient with symptomatic bradycardia with signs of poor perfusion. The starting rate for TCP is 60-80/min and adjust up or down based on the patient’s clinical response. The dose for pacing is set at 2mA (milliamperes) above the dose that produces observed capture.
TCP is contraindicated in the patient with hypothermia and is not a recommended treatment for asystole.
Do not use a carotid pulse check for the assessment of circulation as TCP can create muscular movements that may feel like a carotid pulse. Assess circulation using the femoral pulse.
Identification of contributing factors for symptomatic bradycardia should be considered throughout the ACLS protocol since reversing of the cause will likely return the patient to a state of adequate perfusion.