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Bundle branch block
Pulseless electrical activity
Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT)
Premature atrial contraction
Long QT syndrome and Torsade de pointes
Premature ventricular contraction
Coronary steal syndrome
Coarctation of the aorta
Polycystic kidney disease
Renal artery stenosis
Peripheral artery disease
Subclavian steal syndrome
Superior mesenteric artery syndrome
Human herpesvirus 8 (Kaposi sarcoma)
Chronic venous insufficiency
Deep vein thrombosis
Acyanotic congenital heart defects: Pathology review
Aortic dissections and aneurysms: Pathology review
Atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis: Pathology review
Cardiac and vascular tumors: Pathology review
Cardiomyopathies: Pathology review
Coronary artery disease: Pathology review
Cyanotic congenital heart defects: Pathology review
Dyslipidemias: Pathology review
Endocarditis: Pathology review
Heart blocks: Pathology review
Heart failure: Pathology review
Hypertension: Pathology review
Pericardial disease: Pathology review
Peripheral artery disease: Pathology review
Shock: Pathology review
Supraventricular arrhythmias: Pathology review
Valvular heart disease: Pathology review
Vasculitis: Pathology review
Ventricular arrhythmias: Pathology review
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Each heartbeat starts with the heart’s pacemaker cells in the sinoatrial node, sometimes just called the SA node, in the right atrium. The SA node sends an electrical signal that propagates out through the walls of the heart and contracts both upper chambers, then moves through the atrioventricular node, or AV node, where the signal stops for a split second. Next, the signal goes down into the lower chambers, where it moves down the bundle of His, into the left and right bundle branches, and into each ventricles’ Purkinje fibers, causing them to contract as well. So, in a healthy heart, the upper chambers contract first, and then shortly after, the lower chambers contract.
On an ECG, the atrial contraction is seen as a “P wave,” and the ventricular contraction is seen as the “QRS complex.” The interval from the start of the P wave to the start of the QRS complex is called the “PR interval,” and is normally between 120 and 200 milliseconds, or 3-5 tiny boxes on the graph paper that it’s usually printed out on, since each box is 40 milliseconds or 0.04 seconds. Heart block describes a type of arrhythmia, or abnormal rhythm, that happens when the electrical signal gets delayed or blocked entirely at some point along the conduction system.
These blocks and delays usually happen because of some sort of damage or fibrosis to the electrical conduction system, the pathways that conduct the electrical signal. Lev’s disease, or Lenegre-lev syndrome, describes the large proportion of cases that are idiopathic and described as progressive cardiac conduction defects. This means it’s not clear exactly what causes it, but over time fibrosis, or scarring, develops in the conduction system which can delay or stop electrical conduction. This is usually a result of the aging process in the heart, and happens most often in the elderly, although some hereditary forms have been identified and can happen in younger people. However, another large proportion of cases are a result of ischemic heart disease, which is when the heart cells don’t receive enough oxygen and can die off, as with a heart attack. This again leaves scar tissue that can block the electrical signal. In fact, it’s estimated that about 20 percent of patients that have a heart attack go on to develop a heart block.
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