This is the conclusion to our three part case series, 62 year old male: Chest Discomfort. Before reading the conclusion, we suggest you check out Part I and Part II. Thanks again to Vince DiGiulio, EMT-CC for this wonderful case!
When we last left off, our patient had experienced a resolution of his chest pain accompanied by changes on his 12-Lead ECG. The ED physician had called cardiology, but they were unimpressed. Are we comfortable with this?
Let's review our patients' first 12-Lead.
We have a narrow complex, regular rhythm at 90 bpm consistent with a normal sinus rhythm. Flat or downsloping ST segments are visible in leads III and aVF. Additionally, ST-Elevation is present in leads V1 through V4. As some readers pointed out, this is diagnostic for an Anterior Wall Myocardial Infarction. There are also some subtle hints that this is not a normal variant:
- Dr. Smith included in the comments that the R-wave amplitude of V2-V4 is only 10 mm. In cases of AWMI, a loss of precordial R-wave amplitude is often noted.
- If you compare the T-waves in V1 and V6, you'll note that they are much larger in V1 than in V6. Dr. Henry J. L. Marriott describes this finding as a "loss of precordial T-wave balance." Dr. Mattu covers this in depth in his excellent video New Tall T-Waves in V1.
The most important point is that there is no other explanation for our patient's ST-Elevation. There is no LVH or BBB present and Early Repolarization is a diagnosis of exclusion in a 62 year old patient.
Regardless, any patient with chest pain should be evaluated with serial ECG's. During our patient's second 12-Lead, he happened to be pain free:
Our repeat 12-Lead shows a normal sinus rhythm, with the development of terminal T-wave inversions in leads V1-V4. Several of our readers correctly pointed out that these are the hallmarks of the eponymous Wellens' Syndrome (or Wellens' Warning). Interestingly enough, the computer's interpretation now displays *** ACUTE MI ***.
So what is the importance of this finding?
In 1982, Hein JJ Wellens identified two types of abnormal T-waves associated with critical, proximal LAD stenosis. The first type, not seen in our case, features deeply inverted, symmetric T-waves in the anterior precordial leads. The second type, featured above, are characterized by biphasic T-waves. In his seminal study, Wellens found that these electrocardiographic patterns were most often seen during pain free periods. Subsequent studies showed that nearly every patient with Wellens' Syndrome had blockage in the LAD, ranging from 50-100%!
So what happened with our patient?
Our patient continued to experience transient episodes of chest pain. His troponin-I levels returned at 1.09 ng/mL 20 minutes after the pain-free ECG. Recognizing Wellens' Syndrome, the ED physician had the patient transferred directly to the cath lab for immediate PCI.
Key points highlighted by this case:
- Obtain Serial ECG's!
- A single ECG diagnostic for STEMI is indication for cath lab activation.
- Resolution of chest pain is not a reason to withold aspirin.
- Wellens' Sydrome strongly suggests an advanced degree of LAD stenosis and requires urgent evaluation.
- Dr. Smith's ECG Blog – Wellens' Syndrome
- de Zwann C, Bar FW, Wellens HJJ. Characteristic electrocardiographic pattern indicating a critical stenosis high in left anterior descending coronary artery in patients admitted because of impending myocardial infarction. Am Heart J 1982; 103:730-736. [PubMed]
- Parikh KS, Agarwal R, Mehrota AK, Swamy RS. Wellens syndrome: a life-saving diagnosis. Am J Emerg Med 2012; 30:255e3-255e5. [PubMed]
- Rhinehardt J, Brady WJ, Perron AD, Mattu A. Electrocardiographic manifestations of Wellens' syndrome. Am J Emerg Med 2002; 20(7):638-43. [PubMed]