Value and limitations of adenosine in the diagnosis and treatment of narrow and broad complex tachycardias.
The diagnostic and therapeutic potential of intravenous adenosine was studied in 64 patients during 92 episodes of regular sustained tachycardia. In 40 patients who had narrow complex tachycardias (QRS less than 0.12 s) adenosine (2.5-25 mg) restored sinus rhythm in 25 with junctional tachycardias (46 of 48 episodes) and produced atrioventricular block to reveal atrial or sinus tachycardia in 15. In 24 patients with broad complex tachycardias (QRS greater than or equal to 0.12 s) adenosine terminated the tachycardias in six patients and revealed atrial or sinus arrhythmias in four. The tachycardias persisted in 14 patients despite doses up to 20 mg, but adenosine allowed the diagnosis of ventricular tachycardia with retrograde atrial activation in two patients by producing transient ventriculoatrial dissociation. Diagnosis based on adenosine induced atrioventricular nodal block was correct in all patients with narrow complex tachycardias and in 92% of those with broad complex tachycardias, compared with correct electrocardiographic diagnoses in 90% and 75% respectively. Adenosine gave diagnostic information additional to the electrocardiogram in 25%. The response to adenosine in broad complex tachycardias identified those of supraventricular origin with 90% sensitivity, 93% specificity, and 92% predictive accuracy. Adenosine restored sinus rhythm in all patients with junctional reentrant tachycardias, but in 10 (35%) the arrhythmias recurred within two minutes. Symptomatic side effects (dyspnoea, chest pain, flushing, headache) were reported by 40 (63%) patients and, although transient, were severe in 23 (36%). There were ventricular pauses of over 2 s in 16% of patients, the longest pause being 6.1 s. Adenosine is of value in the diagnosis and treatment of narrow and broad complex tachycardias, but its use is limited by symptomatic side effects, a tenfold range in minimal effective dosage, occasional action at sites other than the atrioventricular node, and early recurrence or arrhythmia.