World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Torsades de pointes

Article Id: WHEBN0000685936
Reproduction Date:

Title: Torsades de pointes  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: T wave alternans, Droperidol, Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome, Pimozide, Antiarrhythmic agent
Collection: Cardiac Dysrhythmia, French Medical Phrases
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Torsades de pointes

Torsades de pointes
12-lead ECG of Torsades de Pointes (TdP) in a 56-year-old white female with Hypokalemia (2.4 mmol/L) and Hypomagnesemia (1.6 mg/dL.)
Classification and external resources
Specialty Cardiology
DiseasesDB 29252
eMedicine med/2286 emerg/596
MeSH D016171

Torsades de pointes or torsade de pointes (TdP or simply torsade(s)) (French: , translated as "twisting of the spikes"), is a specific type of abnormal heart rhythm that can potentially lead to sudden cardiac death. It is a polymorphic ventricular tachycardia that exhibits distinct characteristics on the electrocardiogram (ECG). It was described by Dessertenne in 1966.[1]


  • Signs and symptoms 1
  • Causes 2
    • Prescription drug interactions 2.1
    • Risk factors 2.2
  • Diagnosis 3
  • Treatment 4
  • History 5
  • References 6

Signs and symptoms

Most episodes revert spontaneously to a normal sinus rhythm. Other possible outcomes include palpitations, dizziness, lightheadedness (short episodes), fainting (longer episodes), and sudden cardiac death.


Common causes for torsades de pointes include diarrhea, low blood magnesium and low blood potassium. It is commonly seen in malnourished individuals and chronic alcoholics. Certain combinations of drugs resulting in drug interactions may contribute: decreasing the metabolism of a medication causing QT elongation such as clarithromycin (Biaxin), levofloxacin, or haloperidol (Haldol), taken concomitantly with a specific cytochrome P450 inhibitor like fluoxetine (Prozac), cimetidine (Tagamet); foods like grapefruit will result in higher than normal doses of the medication responsible for the QT elongation. Since these specific drugs worsen the elongation of the QT wave in a dose-dependent manner, inhibition of drug metabolism raises the risks of developing a malignant torsades de pointes arrhythmia.

Prescription drug interactions

TdP as a prescription drug side effect has been a major liability and reason for withdrawal of medications from the marketplace.[2] Examples include amiodarone, methadone, lithium, chloroquine, erythromycin, amphetamine, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, methylphenidate and phenothiazines.[3] It can also be the side effect of some antiarrhythmic medications such as sotalol, procainamide and quinidine. The gastrokinetic drug cisapride (Propulsid) was withdrawn from the US market in 2000 after such interactions led to deaths caused by long QT syndrome-induced torsades de pointes. To correct the prolonged QT interval, magnesium IV 2gm will help effectively block calcium flow as well as prevent recurrent Torsade de Pointes.

In September 2011 (subsequently updated in March 2012 and February 2013), the FDA issued a warning concerning increased incidence of QT elongation with doses of the antidepressant Celexa (citalopram) above 40 mg per day, which is considered the maximum allowable dosage, increasing the risk of Torsades.[4][5] However, the study, "Evaluation of the FDA Warning Against Prescribing Citalopram at Doses Exceeding 40 mg" reported no increased risk of abnormal arrhythmias thus questioning the merit of FDA warning.[6]

Risk factors

The following is a list of factors associated with an increased tendency toward torsades de pointes:

Lead II ECG showing torsades being shocked by an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator back to the patient's baseline cardiac rhythm.

The following is a list of drugs known to induce Torsades de pointes, (possibly along with QTc interval prolongation):

  • Ciprofloxacin (antibiotic)
  • AZD9291 (chemotherapy drug currently in clinical trials; may be particularly dangerous in combination with the above-cited Ciprofloxacin)


The ECG tracing in torsades demonstrates a polymorphic ventricular tachycardia with a characteristic illusion of a twisting of the QRS complex around the isoelectric baseline (peaks which are at first pointing up are seen to be pointing down for subsequent "beats" when looking at ECG traces of the "heartbeat"). It is hemodynamically unstable and causes a sudden drop in arterial blood pressure, leading to dizziness and fainting. Depending on their cause, most individual episodes of torsades de pointes revert to normal sinus rhythm within a few seconds, but may also persist and possibly degenerate into ventricular fibrillation, which will lead to sudden death in the absence of prompt medical intervention. Torsades de pointes is associated with long QT syndrome, a condition whereby prolonged QT intervals are visible on the ECG. Long QT intervals predispose the patient to an R-on-T phenomenon, where the R wave representing ventricular depolarization occurs during the relative refractory period at the end of repolarization (represented by the latter half of the T-wave). An R-on-T can initiate torsades. Sometimes pathologic T-U waves may be seen in the ECG before the initiation of torsades.[7]

A "short-coupled variant of torsade de pointes", which presents without long QT syndrome, was also described in 1994.[8]

  • Drastic rotation of the heart's electrical axis
  • Prolonged QT interval (LQTS) - may not be present in the short-coupled variant of torsade de pointes
  • Preceded by long and short RR-intervals - not present in the short-coupled variant of torsade de pointes
  • Triggered by a premature ventricular contraction (R-on-T PVC)


Treatment is directed at withdrawal of the offending agent, infusion of magnesium sulfate,[9][10] antiarrhythmic drugs, and electrical therapy such as a temporary pacemaker as needed.

Because of the polymorphic nature of torsades de pointes, synchronized cardioversion may not be possible, and the patient may require an unsynchronized shock (or defibrillation).


The phenomenon was originally described in a French medical journal by Dessertenne in 1966, when he observed this cardiac rhythm disorder in an 80-year-old female patient with complete intermittent atrioventricular block. In coining the term, he referred his colleagues to the "Dictionnaire Le Robert," a bilingual French English dictionary, of which his wife had just given him a copy. Here "torsade" is defined as (a)a bundle of threads twisted in a helix or spiral, for ornamental purposes, as in an Aran sweater; (b) long hair twisted together, or (c) an ornamental motif as seen on architectural columns.

The singular and plural forms (torsade de pointes and torsades de pointes) have both often been used. The question of whether either one is "correct" and the other "incorrect" has repeatedly arisen. Among major medical dictionaries, one enters only the plural form, another enters the plural form as the headword but lists the singular as a variant, and another enters the singular form as the headword and gives a usage comment saying that the plural is not preferred. One group of physicians suggests[11] that it would make sense to use the singular form as the general entity name (whether comprising a single or repeated episodes) and that one might best reserve the plural form for describing repeated twistings during a single episode. Regarding the natural language variation, they conclude good-naturedly, "Wasn't it the French who coined the term 'vive la difference?'"[11]


  1. ^ Dessertenne, F. (1966). "La tachycardie ventriculaire a deux foyers opposes variables". Archives des maladies du coeur et des vaisseaux (in French) 59 (2): 263–272.   Prepaired by Rahel farhad
  2. ^ Labant, MaryAnn (November 15, 2014). "Weaving a Stronger Drug Safety Net".  
  3. ^ "Drugs That Prolong the QT Interval or Induce Torsades de Pointes". Point of Care Quick Reference.  
  4. ^ "FDA Drug Safety Communication: Revised recommendations for Celexa (citalopram hydrobromide) related to a potential risk of abnormal heart rhythms with high doses" (Press release).  
  5. ^ Deshmukh, Anand; Ulveling, Kyle; et al. (2012). "Prolonged QTc interval and torsades de pointes induced by citalopram".  
  6. ^ K Zivin, PN Pfeiffer, ASB Bohnert, D Ganoczy, FC Blow, BK Nallamothu, HC Kales (June 1, 2013). "Evaluation of the FDA Warning Against Prescribing Citalopram at Doses Exceeding 40 mg". Am J Psychiatry 170 (6): 642–650.  
  7. ^ John, J.; Amley, X.; Bombino, G.; Gitelis, C.; Topi, B.; Hollander, G.; Ghosh, J. (2010). "Torsade de Pointes due to Methadone Use in a Patient with HIV and Hepatitis C Coinfection". Cardiology Research and Practice 2010: 1–4.  
  8. ^ Leenhardt A, Glaser E, Burguera M, Nürnberg M, Maison-Blanche P, and Coumel P (January 1994). "Short-coupled variant of torsade de pointes. A new electrocardiographic entity in the spectrum of idiopathic ventricular tachyarrhythmias" (PDF). Circulation 89 (1): 206–15.  
  9. ^ Hoshino, Kenji; Ogawa Kiyoshi; et al. (October 2004). "Optimal administration dosage of magnesium sulfate for torsades de pointes in children with long QT syndrome".  
  10. ^ Hoshino, Kenji; Ogawa, Kiyoshi; et al. (April 2006). "Successful uses of magnesium sulfate for torsades de pointes in children with long QT syndrome".  
  11. ^ a b Moise NS (1999), "As Americans, we should get this right [correspondence and response]", Circulation 100: 1462,  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.