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AHA statement: Hospitals need to be aware of deadly heart rhythm condition

Category: Blood and Blood Diseases

A recent joint scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology is urging healthcare providers to be aware that certain medications can cause a life-threatening heart rhythm disturbance called Torsade de Pointes (TdP). The condition is associated with a drop in blood pressure that can cause fainting or sudden cardiac arrest.

Officials from the two organizations have stated that TdP is a special concern for patients in intensive care units, especially for those taking intravenous medications, such as antibiotics, antipsychotics and antiarrhythmia drugs.

Associated risk factors for developing TdP include heart disease, older age, kidney problems as well as low blood levels of potassium, calcium and magnesium, according to Health Day.

"This scientific statement is particularly important for healthcare professionals who administer QT-prolonging drugs in hospital units where patients have continuous ECG monitoring such as in ICUs," said Barbara Drew, chairwoman of the statement writing committee.

"If the ECG warning signs of TdP are recognized on the patient's cardiac monitor, then TdP and subsequent cardiac arrest should be avoidable," she added.

Drew added that most TdP-related warning signs occur an hour or so before ventricular fibrillation and can be corrected with quick action if recognized.

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