To determine the incidence of advanced arrhythmias and acute right bundle branch block during beside pulmonary artery catheterization, 119 critically ill patients undergoing 150 pulmonary artery catheterizations were prospectively studied using continuous electrocardiographic monitoring with permanent recordings. Ventricular arrhythmias other than isolated premature ventricular contractions, couplets or bigeminy occurred during 80 of the 150 catheterizations (53 percent). These included ventricular salvos (three to five consecutive premature ventricular contractions) in 30 percent, non-sustained ventricular tachycardia (five to 30 premature ventricular contractions) in 20 percent and sustained ventricular tachycardia (more than 30 consective premature ventricular contractions) in 3 percent. In two patients, ventricular fibrillation developed; in another three patients, lidocaine or a precordial thump was required to terminate the episodes of ventricular tachycardia. The incidence of advanced ventricular arrhythmias was statistically correlated with either the presence of predisposing risk factors for ventricular ectopy (p < 0.05) or prolonged catheterization time (p < 0.01). A new right bundle branch block developed in seven patients (5 percent) and persisted for a mean of 9.5 hours.
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