Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Torsades de pointes
Torsades de pointes is a medical condition, the name of which means in French "twisting of the points". It is a potentially deadly form of ventricular tachycardia. On the electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), it will present like ventricular tachycardia, but the QRS complexes will swing up and down around the baseline in a chaotic fashion, which prompted the name.
The primary cause for torsades de pointes is hypomagnesemia (low blood levels of magnesium). It is commonly seen in malnourished individuals like alcoholics, as chronic abuse of alcohol will lead to low levels of magnesium, calcium, thiamine, and other nutrients.
Factors that are associated with an increased tendency toward torsades de pointes include:
- Agents that increase the QT interval
- Hypoxia / acidosis
- Left ventricular dysfunction
- Heart failure
- Left ventricular hypertrophy
- Slow heart rate
- Female gender
- Long baseline QT interval
History and terminology
- Dessertenne F. Ventricular tachycardia with two variable opposing foci. Arch Mal Coeur Vaiss 1966;59:263-72. PMID 4956181.
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