Objectives: The purpose of this study was to investigate the possible mechanism and the clinical significance of transient atrioventricular block (AVB) during dobutamine stress echocardiography (DSE).
Background: Transient AVB occurs rarely during DSE; however, the mechanisms responsible for blocks are unclear.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of clinical, echocardiographic, catheterization, revascularization and head-up tilting test data was conducted in patients who developed transient AVB during DSE.
Results: A total of 302 patients with known or suspected coronary artery disease (CAD) underwent DSE before coronary angiography between November 1997 and August 1998. Transient AVB developed in 12 patients during the test. Mobitz I block was noted in six patients and Mobitz II block in the other six patients. Nine of these 12 patients were subsequently shown to have CAD and three had no significant coronary artery stenosis. Mobitz II block was observed only in patients with CAD, while Mobitz I block occurred in three patients with and three patients without CAD (p < 0.05). Eight of the nine patients with CAD underwent a successful coronary angioplasty with or without stenting and a repeat DSE revealed no recurrence of heart block except in one patient. Head-up tilting test in the 12 patients revealed a positive response in three of the nine patients with and all three patients without CAD. A negative head-up tilting test was likely to be observed in patients with, as compared with those without, CAD in this study population (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: Transient AVB is not an infrequent manifestation during DSE. Both myocardial ischemia and neurally mediated vagal reflex may be responsible for this phenomenon. The development of Mobitz II block during DSE is indicative of the presence of CAD. A successful revascularization in patients with CAD who develop transient AVB may abolish this phenomenon.