What are iatrogenic causes of third-degree atrioventricular (AV) block?

Updated: Jul 05, 2018
  • Author: Akanksha Agrawal, MBBS; Chief Editor: Jeffrey N Rottman, MD  more...
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AV block may be associated with aortic valve surgery, septal alcohol ablation, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) to the left anterior descending artery, or ablation of the slow or fast pathway of the AVN. Placement of catheters that mechanically interfere with one fascicle when conduction is already impaired in the remaining conduction system (eg, bumping the right bundle with a pulmonary artery catheter in a patient with existing left bundle-branch block) almost always resolves spontaneously.

AV block after cardiac surgery is seen in 1%-5.7% of patients. [12]  The incidence of postoperative complete heart block has remained relatively stable over the past decade, but it is highly associated with surgeries involving repair of a ventricular septal defect. [13]  Patients may have late loss or late recovery of AV conduction. [13]

Major risks factors identified for the need for permanent pacing are aortic valve surgery, [14] preexisting conduction disease (either right or left bundle-branch block), bicuspid aortic valve, annular calcification, and female sex. The time course for recovery varies widely, with a significant portion of patients recovering during the 48 hours following surgery. Available evidence suggests that if no recovery in AV conduction is seen by postoperative day 4 or 5, a pacemaker should be implanted.

Data from the Harmonizing Outcomes with Revascularization and Stents in Acute Myocardial Infarction (HORIZONS-AMI) Trial, in which 3,115 patients with STEMI underwent PCI, revealed that independent predictors of high-grade AV block included increased age, diabetes mellitus, right coronary artery occlusion, sum of ST-segment deviation, and baseline Thrombolysis In Myocardial Infarction (TIMI) flow 0/1. [15] Mortality was also significantly higher in those with high-grade AV block at 1 year but not at 30 days or 3 years, even after primary PCI.

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