Carotid sinus massage. Its diagnostic and therapeutic value in arrhythmias

Am J Med. 1985 Apr;78(4):645-54. doi: 10.1016/0002-9343(85)90408-5.


Carotid sinus massage is a simple bedside maneuver that helps to clarify the type and sometimes also the mechanism of different rhythm disturbances. The major indication for carotid sinus massage is the diagnosis of tachyarrhythmias in which the atrial activity is either absent or intermittently present. Carotid sinus massage is also useful in some patients with normal heart rates; increased vagal tone may normalize a bundle branch block or localize the site of type I second-degree atrioventricular block and can be used for evaluation of the sensing function of permanent pacemakers. Carotid sinus massage is also an important diagnostic procedure in patients with suspected hypersensitivity of the carotid sinus. Massage of the carotid sinus is contraindicated in patients with diseased carotid arteries because of the risk of cerebrovascular accident. In rare instances, carotid sinus massage may initiate ventricular tachycardia.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / diagnosis
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / physiopathology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / therapy*
  • Cardiac Pacing, Artificial
  • Carotid Artery Diseases / etiology
  • Carotid Sinus / innervation
  • Carotid Sinus / physiopathology*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Heart Conduction System / physiopathology
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Massage* / adverse effects
  • Middle Aged
  • Pressoreceptors / physiopathology
  • Reflex
  • Tachycardia / etiology
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / etiology