Bradycardia

Last reviewed: 5 Jan 2023
Last updated: 06 Jan 2023

Summary

Definition

History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • pulse rate <50 bpm
  • age >70 years
  • use of known causative medications
  • presence of known underlying cause
  • dizziness/lightheadedness
  • syncope
  • fatigue
  • exercise intolerance
  • shortness of breath
  • cannon a-waves in jugular venous pulse
  • jugular venous distension
More key diagnostic factors

Other diagnostic factors

  • increased intracranial pressure
  • abnormal heart sounds
  • abdominal or lower extremity edema
  • hypotension
  • mental status changes
  • pallor
  • extremities cool to touch
  • hypothermia
  • chest pain
  • rashes
  • thyroid goiter
Other diagnostic factors

Risk factors

  • use of known causative medications
  • age >70 years
  • recent myocardial infarction
  • surgery
  • percutaneous valve replacement procedures
  • hypothyroidism
  • electrolyte disorders
  • acidosis
  • infections
  • exposure to toxins
  • hypothermia
  • infiltrative diseases
  • sleep-disordered breathing
  • epilepsy
More risk factors

Diagnostic investigations

1st investigations to order

  • 12-lead ECG
  • Holter monitoring
  • event monitor/mobile cardiac telemetry
  • exercise testing
  • carotid sinus massage
  • echocardiogram
  • thyroid function tests
  • basic metabolic panel
  • arterial blood gas
  • cardiac biomarkers
  • serum digoxin level
  • serum creatinine
More 1st investigations to order

Investigations to consider

  • implantable-loop recorder
  • tilt-table testing
  • Lyme titers
  • electrophysiology testing
  • nocturnal pulse oximetry or overnight polysomnography
More investigations to consider

Treatment algorithm

ACUTE

hemodynamically unstable

hemodynamically stable: sinus node dysfunction

hemodynamically stable: acquired atrioventricular block

hemodynamically stable: congenital atrioventricular block

hemodynamically stable: vagally mediated bradycardia

hemodynamically stable: bradycardia associated with neurologic disorders

Contributors

Authors

Brian Olshansky, MD, FAHA, FACC, FHRS, FESC
Brian Olshansky

Professor Emeritus

University of Iowa

Iowa City

Adjunct Professor

Des Moines University

Electrophysiologist

Covenant Hospital

Waterloo

IA

VA Hospital

Iowa City

IA

CGH Medical Center

Sterling

IL

Disclosures

BO declares that he has no competing interests.

Sandeep Saha, MD, MS, FACC, FHRS

Cardiologist and Cardiac Electrophysiologist

Oregon Heart Center

Consultant, Cardiology and Cardiac Electrophysiology

Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics

Salem

OR

Disclosures

SS is a consultant for Medtronic and St Jude Medical. He is on the speakers' bureau for Medtronic. None of these activities are relevant to the content of this topic.

Rakesh Gopinathannair, MD, MA, FAHA, FACC, FHRS
Rakesh Gopinathannair

Director, Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratories

Kansas City Heart Rhythm Institute and Research Foundation

EP Medical Director

Research Medical Center, HCA Midwest Health

Overland Park

KS

Clinical Professor of Medicine

University of Missouri-Columbia

Columbia

MO

Disclosures

RG is a consultant for St. Jude Medical, Biotrionik, and Boston Scientific. He is on the speakers' bureau for Pfizer Inc. and Zoll Medical. He serves as a physician advisor for HealthTrust PG and AltaThera Pharma, and PaceMate. None of these activities are relevant to the content of this topic.

Acknowledgements

Professor Brian Olshansky, Dr. Sandeep Saha, and Professor Rakesh Gopinathannair would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Giselle Statz for her contributions to this version of the topic. They would also like to acknowledge Dr Renee M. Sullivan, Dr Weiwei Li, Dr Alexander Mazur, and Dr Chirag M. Sandesara, previous contributors to this topic.

Disclosures

GS, RMS, WL, AM, and CMS declare that they have no competing interests.

Peer reviewers

Nora Goldschlager, MD

Professor of Clinical Medicine

University of California

Chief

Clinical Cardiology

San Francisco General Hospital

Director

Coronary Care Unit

ECG Laboratory and Pacemaker Clinic

San Francisco

CA

Disclosures

NG declares that she has no competing interests.

Paul Heidenreich, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine

Stanford University

Stanford

CA

Disclosures

PH declares that he has no competing interests.

Juan M. Sztajzel, MD

Cardiology Center and Medical Polyclinics

University Hospital Geneva

Geneva

Switzerland

Disclosures

JMS declares that he has no competing interests.

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