Reconsidering the effectiveness and safety of carotid sinus massage as a therapeutic intervention in patients with supraventricular tachycardia

Am J Emerg Med. 2015 Jun;33(6):807-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2015.02.047. Epub 2015 Mar 7.

Abstract

Objective: The objectives of our investigation were to review the evidence for the efficacy and safety of carotid sinus massage in terminating supraventricular tachycardia and to determine if other potentially less harmful interventions have been established to be safer and more effective.

Methods: A search using PubMed, Ovid, and COCHRANE databases was performed using the terms supraventricular tachycardia, carotid sinus massage, SVT, and CSM. Articles not written in English were excluded. There was a paucity of randomized controlled trials comparing various supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) interventions. However, articles of highest quality were selected for review and inclusion. In addition, articles examining potential hazards of carotid sinus massage in case report format were reviewed, even when performed for other indications other than SVT, as the maneuver is identically performed. Selected articles were reviewed by both authors for relevance to the topic.

Results: Summarizing the findings of this review leads to these 3 fundamental conclusions. First, a therapeutic intervention should only be performed when the benefit of the procedure outweighs its risk. Carotid sinus massage exposes the patient to rare but potentially devastating iatrogenic harm. Second, a therapeutic intervention should be efficacious. The efficacy of carotid sinus massage in terminating supraventricular tachycardia appears to be modest at best. Third, other readily available, easily mastered, and potentially safer and more efficacious alternative interventions are available such as Valsalva maneuver and pharmacologic therapy.

Conclusion: Based on the limited evidence available, we believe that carotid sinus massage should be reconsidered as a first-line therapeutic intervention in the termination of SVT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Carotid Sinus* / physiopathology
  • Heart Massage*
  • Humans
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / physiopathology
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / therapy*