Evaluation of a staged treatment protocol for rapid automatic junctional tachycardia after operation for congenital heart disease

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1997 Apr;29(5):1046-53. doi: 10.1016/s0735-1097(97)00040-5.


Objectives: This study sought to 1) develop an efficient treatment protocol for postoperative automatic junctional tachycardia (JT) using conventional drugs and techniques, and 2) identify clinical features associated with this disorder by analyzing a large study group.

Background: Postoperative JT is a transient arrhythmia that may be fatal after operation for congenital cardiac defects. Its precise cause is unknown. A variety of palliative treatments have evolved, but because of a low incidence of JT, large studies of the most efficient therapeutic sequence are lacking.

Methods: A protocol for rapid JT (>170 beats/min) was adopted in 1986, and was tested in 71 children between 1986 and 1994. Staged therapy involved 1) a reduction of catecholamines; 2) correction of fever; 3) atrial pacing to restore synchrony; 4) digoxin; 5) phenytoin or propranolol or verapamil; 6) procainamide or hypothermia; and 7) combined procainamide and hypothermia. Effective therapy was defined as a sustained reduction of JT rate <170 beats/min within 2 h. Clinical profiles of the study group were contrasted with all patients without JT from this same era to identify features associated with JT.

Results: Of the multiple treatment stages, only correction of fever and combined procainamide and hypothermia appeared to be efficacious. By refining the protocol to eliminate nonproductive stages, the time to JT control was significantly shortened for the last 30 patients. Treatment was ultimately successful in 70 of 71 children. Postoperative JT was strongly associated with young age, transient atrioventricular block and operations involving ventricular septal defect closure.

Conclusions: A staged approach to therapy, with emphasis on combined hypothermia and procainamide in difficult cases, appears to be an effective management strategy for postoperative JT. These results may also serve as comparison data for evaluation of newer and promising JT options, such as intravenous amiodarone. Trauma to conduction tissue may play a central role in the etiology of this disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy*
  • Procainamide / therapeutic use
  • Tachycardia, Ectopic Junctional / etiology
  • Tachycardia, Ectopic Junctional / physiopathology
  • Tachycardia, Ectopic Junctional / therapy*


  • Anti-Arrhythmia Agents
  • Procainamide