Adenosine for the prehospital treatment of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia

Ann Emerg Med. 1994 Aug;24(2):183-9. doi: 10.1016/s0196-0644(94)70128-8.


Study objective: To determine the efficacy and feasibility of adenosine for the treatment of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) in the prehospital setting.

Design: Prospective case series.

Setting: Large, urban, advanced life support emergency medical services system.

Participants: One hundred twenty-nine adult patients with PSVT, as identified by paramedic personnel. Pregnant patients and those taking carbamazepine or dipyridamole were excluded.

Interventions: Dose of 12 mg adenosine by rapid i.v. push followed by a 5-mL saline flush and a repeat dose of 12 mg adenosine i.v. push if the patient's rhythm remained unchanged.

Measurements and main results: Six-second lead II rhythm strips and vital signs were documented before and 2 minutes after the administration of adenosine. Demographic information, past medical history, medications, number of adenosine doses given, and complications were recorded by the paramedic on a case-report form. One hundred six of 129 (82%) of the case-report forms included the rhythm strips from before and after adenosine administration. Actual initial rhythms were determined by a consensus panel. The initial rhythms were PSVT in 79% (84 of 106) of patients, atrial fibrillation in 12% (13 of 106), sinus tachycardia in 5% (five of 106), atrial flutter in 2% (two of 106), and ventricular tachycardia in 2% (two of 106). Eighty-five percent (71 of 84) of patients in PSVT were successfully converted to sinus rhythms; four (5.6%) of these patients required a second 12-mg dose. One patient in atrial fibrillation spontaneously converted to normal sinus rhythm and one patient in ventricular tachycardia converted after adenosine. All other patients not initially in PSVT remained in their initial rhythm. Complications occurred in 12 of 129 patients and included chest pain (five), flushing (three), shortness of breath (two), nausea (one), anxiety (one), dizziness (one), headache (one), and seizure (one). All complications were transient and required no treatment. Prior history of PSVT was the only variable associated with a higher rate of conversion (P = .029).

Conclusion: Paramedics are able to accurately identify PSVT using a single lead. Adenosine is safe and effective treatment for PSVT in the prehospital setting. This series is the largest prehospital study of adenosine use to date.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine / adverse effects
  • Adenosine / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tachycardia, Paroxysmal / drug therapy*
  • Tachycardia, Supraventricular / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Urban Population


  • Adenosine