Understanding Atropine

As requested, during our previous Adenosine discussion, we will briefly review, Parasympathetic stimulation and Atropine pharmacodynamics on the heart.

ACETYLCHOLINE (ACh) is one of the Neurotransmitters, a chemical signal, used by the Central Nervous System, which has many effects on the body, from stimulating muscle contraction, inducing peristalsis (digestion), Bile release by the liver, and as discussed here, decreasing Sinoatrial Node (SAN) and Atrioventricular Node (AVN) stimulation. When the later occurs, often we encounter its effect recorded on the ECG, seen as:

  • Sinus Bradycardia
  • SA Blocks
  • AV Blocks

The most common symptoms of Vagal stimulation include:

  • Vasovagal Syncope
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness

ACh is released during Vagus Nerve (Cranial Nerve X) stimulation ,which in the heart, binds to M2 Muscarinic Receptors, one of the 5 types of Muscarinic Receptors, which mainly work in CNS and skeletal muscle. Out of all these receptors, binding of ACh to M2 receptors affects the heart and its overall conductivity.

How does this work?

  • Decrease Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP) intracellular
  • This slows down L-type Calcium Channel opening, leading to decreased automaticity and slightly decreasing contractility
  • Potassium (K+) efflux (leaving the cell) is delayed, which prolongs repolarization, delaying the next action potential

The combination of all these actions, hyperpolarize the cells, increasing SA Nodal and AV Nodal threshold, which decreases the overall conduction, mainly through the AVN. This is known as Negative Dromotropic Effect.

 

ATROPINE

atropine

Atropine, an antichollinergic, derived from the plant, Atropa Belladonna, or “Deadly Nightshade flower”,  blocks ACh binding to M2 receptors, giving it the “Parasympatholytic” property. The goal is not necessarily to increase SAN function, but rather, block the parasympathetic  response produced by M2 receptor stimulation, leading to normal SAN and AVN function.

 Now that we understand how Vagal Stimulation affects our cardiac function, the use of Atropine makes a bit more sense during suspected bradycardia induced symptoms.

 

2 Comments

  • James M says:

    I love these drug summaries. Thanks a lot, Ivan, for taking the time to do them. I look forward to seeing more! Perhaps amiodarone?

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EMS 12-Lead

Cardiac Rhythm Analysis, 12-Lead ECG Interpretation, Resuscitation
Comments
David Baumrind
All that wiggles isn’t Wellens’
@Gary, by all means, nitpick all you like. I agree with your assessment, and the post has been modified. Thank you for the feedback!
2014-08-30 17:28:16
Gary Huntress
All that wiggles isn’t Wellens’
Not to nitpick but is this really a "slightly leftward axis"? I and AVF are both positive. I put it at about +20 degrees, not leftward.
2014-08-30 11:49:35
Handsome Robb
87 YOM COMPLAINING OF CHEST DISCOMFORT AND DYSPNEA
CHF. 12-lead shows a sinus Tachycardia in the 120s with PACs, besides the anterior leads there's diffuse ST depression, the STE in the anterior leads can be explained by the LBBB, axis is good as well. I wish they posted the EtCO2 waveform so we could see but I'm assuming it's non-obstructive. The elevated EtCO2…
2014-08-30 08:08:22
Christopher Watford
“Bad heartburn” – 82 y.o. female without chest pain.
Brooks, Firstly, thank you for the warm welcome to the club. Secondly, the Glasgow algorithm's only published sens/spec for AMI is 51.6%/97.6% respectively (Tuscon STEMI Database). I've not been able to find any other publications. The GE Marquette 12SL algorithm has been widely studied, but is much older, and ranges in sensitivity from 48% to…
2014-08-29 16:50:14
CB
57 Year Old Male–Chest Discomfort
Given what he was doing (paint fumes on ladder painting) I would first question if the pain is reproducable. Yes his ekg isn't normal but looks like old inferior MI. And he is hypertensive. 02 a must. Def. would give ASA. First would give morphine and see how his cp and bp are. If still…
2014-08-29 11:37:25

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