A 65-year-old man who had been treated for hypertension for the past 10 years presented with increasing fatigue, dizziness, and palpitations. He did not have chest pain or any other symptoms. An electrocardiogram (ECG) was obtained (Figure 1).
B. Review the ECG for features of atrial fibrillation
The key to the correct diagnosis in this case is the absence of P waves, irregularly irregular R-R intervals, and fibrillary (f) waves on the ECG tracing. Careful analysis of the tracing is required to establish these features of atrial fibrillation (AF). Other dysrhythmias that have a similar appearance include frequent atrial ectopic beats, wandering atrial pacemaker, multifocal atrial tachycardia, and atrial flutter with varying AV block. These conditions may be distinguished from AF on the ECG by the fact that organized atrial activity would be present and denoted by the presence of distinct P waves, which are not seen on this tracing.
Soliman EZ, Bhave PD, Chen LY. Electrocardiographic Diagnosis of Atrial Arrhythmias. JAMA. 2019;322(7):688–689. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.10925
Customize your JAMA Network experience by selecting one or more topics from the list below.
Create a personal account or sign in to: