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Transcutaneous Cardiac Pacing Technique

  • Author: Ali A Sovari, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Richard A Lange, MD, MBA  more...
 
Updated: Dec 17, 2014
 

Transcutaneous Pacing

The video below demonstrates transcutaneous cardiac pacing using a defibrillator.

Transcutaneous cardiac pacing in a patient with third-degree heart block. Video courtesy of Therese Canares, MD; Marleny Franco, MD; and Jonathan Valente, MD (Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University).

In nonemergent situations, sedate the patient. Record the baseline rhythm and vital signs, if this has not already been done.

Prepare and apply the pads as described earlier (see Positioning). Although transcutaneous pacing has been used continuously for as long as 4-5 days,[14, 15] the sites at which the pads are applied should be changed every 4-5 hours to reduce skin burn and discomfort. For patients who require longer-term pacing, a more appropriate mode of pacing should be considered.

Turn the pacemaker on, and choose the pacing mode. Most pacing units are capable of pacing on either a demand mode or a fixed mode. The demand mode is usually preferable and should be used initially. If capture cannot be obtained on that mode, then the fixed mode should be tried. In the demand mode, the pacemaker senses the intrinsic impulses and delivers current only if necessary.

Capture the heart rate. If the patient is in cardiac arrest with bradycardia or an asystolic rhythm, the pacing should be initiated at the maximum current output to ensure that capture is achieved as soon as possible, after which time the current can be gradually reduced to 5-10 mA above the threshold.

The presence of 1 QRS complex after each pacing stimulus suggests but does not confirm the capture. Cardiac capture should be confirmed by detecting the pulse (see the image below). However, pulse detection can be difficult, particularly in bradyasystolic arrest; in these cases, detecting ventricular capture by means of 2-dimensional echocardiography is a good alternative if the echocardiography system is available.[16, 17]

Rhythm strip showing failure to capture in first 4 Rhythm strip showing failure to capture in first 4 pacing stimuli that did not produce any pulse. When capture occurred, each pacing artifact is followed by QRS complex (albeit bizarrely shaped) and pulse.

A small polarization artifact that is usually noted after each pacing artifact should not be confused with a QRS complex. In a healthy individual, the pacing threshold is usually less than 80 mA.

Many factors (eg, obesity, myocardial ischemia, metabolic derangement, pneumothorax, poor skin-to-electrode contact) can increase the pacing threshold, and some of those conditions are correctable. Reevaluate the patient.

It has been shown that walkie-talkies and cellular digital phones can cause various disturbances in the function of external pacing units, including pacing inhibition and asynchronous pacing,[18] even when these devices are as far as 200 cm from the pacing units. Therefore, an appropriate warning against using such communication equipment near patients undergoing transcutaneous cardiac pacing should be issued.

 
 
Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Ali A Sovari, MD, FACP Fellow in Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cedars Sinai Medical Center/Heart Institute

Ali A Sovari, MD, FACP is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American Physician Scientists Association, American Physiological Society, Biophysical Society, Heart Rhythm Society, Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Coauthor(s)

Abraham G Kocheril, MD, FACC, FACP, FHRS Professor of Medicine, University of Illinois College of Medicine

Abraham G Kocheril, MD, FACC, FACP, FHRS is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Cardiology, Central Society for Clinical and Translational Research, Heart Failure Society of America, Cardiac Electrophysiology Society, American College of Physicians, American Heart Association, American Medical Association, Illinois State Medical Society

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Ramin Assadi, MD Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Interventional Cardiology, Loma Linda University Medical Center

Ramin Assadi, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American College of Cardiology, American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Richard A Lange, MD, MBA President, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Dean, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Richard A Lange, MD, MBA is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Association of Subspecialty Professors

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

Erik D Schraga, MD Staff Physician, Department of Emergency Medicine, Mills-Peninsula Emergency Medical Associates

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Mary L Windle, PharmD, Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

References
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Normal action potential of myocyte and main ion channels that play major roles in different phases of action potential.
Defibrillator with pacing capability.
Pacing electrode pads of external pacing unit and locations in which each pad should be placed.
Rhythm strip showing failure to capture in first 4 pacing stimuli that did not produce any pulse. When capture occurred, each pacing artifact is followed by QRS complex (albeit bizarrely shaped) and pulse.
Transcutaneous cardiac pacing in a patient with third-degree heart block. Video courtesy of Therese Canares, MD; Marleny Franco, MD; and Jonathan Valente, MD (Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University).
 
 
 
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