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Challenges in Clinical Electrocardiography
November 26, 2018

Electrocardiographic Harbingers of Ventricular Tachycardia Arrest—A Moment of Pause

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • 2Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois
  • 3Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • 4Division of Cardiology, Department of Medicine, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, San Francisco, California
JAMA Intern Med. Published online November 26, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.6220

A woman in her 40s presented to the emergency department (ED) with nausea and vomiting of 6 days’ duration associated with watery diarrhea and anorexia. She denied fever or abdominal pain. Two days prior to presentation, her physician had administered 4 mg of ondansetron intramuscularly and prescribed 4-mg ondansetron tablets, of which she took 3 over the course of 2 days.

In the ED, her vital signs and physical examination findings were unremarkable. Laboratory testing revealed a serum potassium level of 3.1 mEq/L and a serum magnesium level of 1.9 mg/dL. Her initial electrocardiogram (ECG) revealed sinus rhythm with ventricular ectopy (Figure 1). The automated calculation of the QTc was 626 milliseconds (ms). Given frequent runs of nonsustained polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (NSVT) seen on telemetry, the ED physician administered a bolus intravenous (IV) dose of 150 mg of amiodarone, in addition to 2 g of IV magnesium sulfate (Mg++) and 20 mEq of IV potassium sulfate (K+). A subsequent ECG recorded 4 hours later is shown in Figure 2A.

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