Torsades de pointes

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  • Form of polymorphic VTach
    • Gradual change in the amplitude of QRS complexes and twisting around isoelectric line
  • Associated with congenital or acquired prolonged QT which may be secondary to medications

Common Causes

POINTES mnemonic:

Clinical Features

Differential Diagnosis

Wide-complex tachycardia

Assume any wide-complex tachycardia is ventricular tachycardia until proven otherwise (it is safer to incorrectly assume a ventricular dysrhythmia than supraventricular tachycardia with abberancy)

^Fixed or rate-related



  • ECG
  • BMP, Mg, Phos


Classic torsades in 12-lead
Torsades de Pointes (TdP) in patient with a potassium of 2.4 mmol/L and a magnesium of 1.6mg/dL.
  • ECG showing the QRS complexes “twisting” around the isoelectric line


Increasing HR decreases QT interval

  1. Magnesium sulfate - decreases calcium influx
    • 1-2gm IV over 1-2 min, repeat in 5-15min; then 1-2gm/hr (3-10mg/min) drip
      • Danger of hypermagnesemia → depressed neuromuscular function and respiratory drive, so monitor closely
      • Supplement with K+
  2. Isoproterenol - Increases HR / AV conduction
    • 2-8 mcg/min
    • Target HR > 90 bpm
  3. Overdrive Pacing - Atrial > Ventricular pacing
    • Goal HR 90-120
    • Note: Not a treatment for TdP, but useful in maintaining sinus rhythm
  4. Defibrillation / synchronized cardioversion - Patient in extremis
  5. AVOID amiodarone and procainamide, which may worsen prolonged QT
  6. Lidocaine (a class Ib antiarrhythmic drug) shortens the QT interval and may be effective especially for drug-induced torsades de pointes
    • Lidocaine 1 mg/kg bolus, followed by 0.5-4 mg/min, titrated to rhythm response[1]
    • Inpatient may monitor plasma lidocaine levels, with goal < 6 mcg/mL


  • Admit

See Also


  1. Reachi B, Negrelli J, Hickman A, Beesley S, Osborn J (2019) Isoproterenol and Lidocaine for Recurrent Torsades de Pointes in a 32-year-old Pregnant Woman. Int J Crit Care Emerg Med 5:092.