Excessive discordance as a marker of acute STEMI in LBBB

This is Part I of the conclusion to 80 year old male CC: Chest pain.

As we have discussed on numerous previous occasions, the expected relationship between the QRS complex and the ST-segment and T-wave in the setting of left bundle branch should be one of discordance.

This is sometimes referred to as the rule of appropriate T-wave discordance.

That means that in the setting of left bundle branch block, negatively deflected QRS complexes can be expected to show ST-elevation and upright T-waves.

Positively deflected QRS complexes can be expected to show ST-depression and inverted T-waves.

That's why left bundle branch block is an anterior STEMI mimic.

It is normal for the ST-segments to be deflected opposite the S-waves in the right precordial leads (V1-V3).

However, there is a limit to how much discordance is appropriate.

Sgarbossa's criteria requires at least 5 mm of discordant ST-elevation in order to be significant.

However, this criterion is problematic because it does not take into account the rule of proportionality.

That's why it's the weakest of Sgarbossa's critiera.

Discordant ST-elevation of 5 mm (as a stand-alone finding) only indicates a 50% probability of AMI according to Sgarbossa's original scoring algorithm.


This ECG from a previous case post demonstrates the dilemma.


The ST-elevation in leads V1-V3 is well over 5 mm but the S-waves are so deep that they are running off the bottom of the ECG paper.

This patient was not experiencing acute STEMI.

Stephen Smith, M.D. (of Dr. Smith's ECG Blog) uses a modified criterion which considers the ST/QRS ratio.

He has found that when the ST-segment is deviated more than 0.2 the QRS complex it is both a sensitive and specific marker for acute STEMI in the setting of left bundle branch block (and probably also paced rhythm).

(Note: This has since been revised to 0.25 the QRS (download PDF here). However, I still think it terms of allowing 1 mm of ST-elevation for every 5 mm of S-wave depth. When I do this, I round up. In other words, if the S-wave is 18 mm deep, I round up to 20, which means that I would allow up to 4 mm of ST-elevation in that lead.)

Let's examine each of these QRS complexes separately.

We'll start with the positively deflected QRS complex marked 'A'.

As you can see, the R-wave measures 10 mm. The J-point (relative to the PR segment) is depressed 3 mm. Therefore, the ST/QRS ratio is 0.3 (which is higher than 0.2). Hence, this finding would strongly suggest acute STEMI.

Now let's look at the negatively deflected QRS complex marked 'B'.

In this example the S-wave measures 10.5 mm. The J-point (relative to the PR segment) measures 3.5 mm. Therefore, the ST/QRS ratio is 0.33 (which is higher than 0.2). Hence, this finding, would strongly suggest acute STEMI.

In Part II we'll apply Dr. Smith's decision rule to the our recent case study.

See also:

80 year old male CC: Chest pain

80 year old male CC: Chest pain – Conclusion

Discordant ST-segment elevation in LBBB or paced rhythm

62 year old male CC: Chest pain

58 year old female CC: Chest pain


12 Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

EMS 12-Lead

Cardiac Rhythm Analysis, 12-Lead ECG Interpretation, Resuscitation

JEMS Talk: Google Hangout

know it all parapup
83 Year Old Male: Shortness of Breath
@ Kyle I would question your authority to call out people for not having a license or being a know it all parapup when your tx basically entails "call medical control." I think we can both agree that his cardiac output is not great at all. I assume your reluctance to give him any other…
2014-10-30 20:26:11
83 Year Old Male: Shortness of Breath
Well st elevation in avr and v1 associated with anterior and lateral depression would call for possible posterior wall MI. 15 lead would be in order. Also check all the leads for appropriate placing. If v7, v8, and v9 show the elevation i would treat as a STEMI per my protocol. Asprin only until medical…
2014-10-30 18:14:05
The most awesome STEMI test on the internet!
Thanks for the app. It made me think about all that one may see in the field. The only problem was I never got a score or saw the results of how I did other than saying I had completed the test. Anyway a great way to get the old brain working.
2014-10-30 13:14:27
83 Year Old Male: Shortness of Breath
I mostly agree with dustin. I believe this is may be an isolated posterior MI. The R wave in V2 points to it being a posterior MI. otherwise it is a 1st degree av block with a LAHB. I am somewhat concerned with the concordant t segment depression noted and in fact if you were…
2014-10-30 04:22:44
Karl Brennan
Understanding Amiodarone
Great article , however in VF caused by hyperkalemia it should be avoided along with lidocaine , Since it shuts down the K channels, the eiteiology of the arrest hyper K, K channels are needed to exchange K in the cell. Calcium , Bicarbonate, dextrose and insulin should be used to decrease K levels along…
2014-10-30 03:04:45
Taking It With You
Taking It With You
Night at the Movies
Night at the Movies
A REAL Emergency!
A REAL Emergency!
What is Experience?
What is Experience?
Streets: Nine and a Half D
Streets: Nine and a Half D

STEMI Expert?

  • Click here to find out!
  • 12-Lead ECG Challenge Smartphone App


    12-Lead ECG Challenge Smartphone App - $5.99

  • Apple iOS
  • Android
  • Amazon
  • Web Based

  • FRN-TV video review
  • iMedicalApps.com review
  • Interested in resuscitation?

    FireEMS Blogs eNewsletter

    Sign-up to receive our free monthly eNewsletter

    Visitor Map / Stats

    Locations of visitors to this page