It is not always easy to distinguish between supraventricular tachycardia with aberration and ventricular tachycardia by electrocardiographic analysis alone. M mode echocardiography can often help by providing direct or indirect evidence of the relation between atrial and ventricular contraction. Sixteen consecutive patients with spontaneous sustained broad QRS complex tachycardia with heart rates of 120-225 beats/minute were examined. Echocardiographic evidence of 1:1 conduction was seen in three cases and 2:1 atrioventricular conduction in one (all four had supraventricular tachycardia, confirmed by intracardiac electrocardiography in three). Evidence of retrograde block was seen in 12 (all had ventricular tachycardia, with electrophysiological confirmation in 10). Satisfactory views of the mitral valve were obtained in all patients. Patients with ventricular tachycardia had a variable mitral valve opening time (range 42-110%) compared with those who had supraventricular tachycardia (9-15%). Aortic root and left atrial views gave direct evidence of atrial contraction in three cases, and subcostal right atrial wall views were diagnostic in four of five cases. Seven patients with ventricular tachycardia had been wrongly diagnosed elsewhere as having supraventricular tachycardia. This study confirms that echocardiography is a simple and rapid aid to accurate diagnosis in patients with broad QRS complex tachycardia.
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