ECG patterns in early pulseless electrical activity-Associations with aetiology and survival of in-hospital cardiac arrest

Resuscitation. 2016 Jul;104:34-9. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2016.03.029. Epub 2016 Apr 30.


Introduction: Pulseless electrical activity (PEA) is an increasingly common presentation in cardiac arrest. The aim of this study was to investigate possible associations between early ECG patterns in PEA and the underlying causes and survival of in-hospital cardiac arrest (IHCA).

Methods: Prospectively observed episodes of IHCA presenting as PEA between January 2009 and august 2013, with a reliable cause of arrest and corresponding defibrillator ECG recordings, were analysed. QRS width, QT interval, Bazett's corrected QT interval, presence of P waves and heart rate (HR) was determined. QRS width and HR were considered to be normal below 120ms and within 60-100 cardiac cycles per minute, respectively.

Results: Fifty-one episodes fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The defibrillator was attached after a median of one minute (75th percentile; 3min) after the onset of arrest. Ninety percent (46/51) had widened QRS complexes, 63% (32/51) were defined as 'wide-slow' due to QRS-widened bradycardia, and only 6% (3/51) episodes were categorized as normal. No unique cause-specific ECG pattern could be identified. Further 7 episodes with a corresponding defibrillator file, but without a reliable cause, were included in analysis of survival. Abnormal ECG patterns were seen in all survivors. None of the patients with 'normal' PEA survived.

Conclusion: Abnormal ECG patterns were frequent at the early stage of in-hospital PEA. No unique patterns were associated with the underlying causes or survival.

Keywords: Aetiology; Cardiac arrest; Causes; Defibrillator; Pulseless electrical activity; Resuscitation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bradycardia / mortality
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation*
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Heart Arrest / etiology
  • Heart Arrest / mortality*
  • Heart Arrest / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis