The incidence of perioperative bradyarrhythmias in patients with bifascicular or left bundle branch block (LBBB) and the influence of an additional first-degree atrioventricular (A-V) block has not been evaluated with 24-h Holter electrocardiographic monitoring. Therefore the authors assessed the rate of block progression and bradyarrhythmia in these patients.Methods
Patients (n = 106) with asymptomatic bifascicular block or LBBB with or without an additional first-degree A-V block scheduled for surgery under general or regional anesthesia were enrolled prospectively. Three patients were excluded. Of the 103 remaining, 56 had a normal P-R interval and 47 had a prolonged one. Holter monitoring (CM2, CM5) was applied to each patient just before induction of anesthesia and was performed for 24 h. The primary endpoint of the study was the occurrence of block progression. As secondary endpoints, bradycardias < 40 beats/min with hemodynamic compromise (systolic blood pressure < 90 mmHg) or asystoles > 5 s were defined.Results
Block progression to second-degree A-V block and consecutive cardiac arrest occurred in one case of LBBB without a prolonged P-R interval. Severe bradyarrhythmias with hypotension developed in another eight patients: asystoles > 5 s occurred in two cases and six patients had bradycardias < 40/min. Pharmacotherapy was successful in these eight patients. There was no significant difference for severe bradyarrhythmias associated with hemodynamic compromise between patients with and without P-R prolongation (P = 1.00).Conclusions
In patients with chronic bifascicular block or LBBB, perioperative progression to complete heart block is rare. However, the rate of bradyarrhythmias with hemodynamic compromise proved to be relevant. Because an additional first-degree A-V block did not increase the incidence of severe bradyarrhythmias and pharmacotherapy by itself was successful in nearly all cases, routine prophylactic insertion of a temporary pacemaker in such patients should be questioned.