Atrial Fibrillation ECG Interpretation
- Atrial Fibrillation (afeb) occurs when multiple electrical impulses occur within the atria. This chaotic electrical activity results in a chaotic wave form between the QRS complexes. P waves are absent. They are replaced by lower case "f" waves. No P waves means there is no PR interval measurement.
- This rapid electrical activity overwhelms the AV node causing impulses to enter the ventricular conduction system at irregular points. This results in irregular R to R intervals.
- Not all fibrillatory waves are created equal. The "f" waves can be coarse (majority measure 3 mm or more) or can be fine (majority of waveforms measure less than 3 mm) to almost absent. Regardless always report your observations. Many times when a patient has "new onset" Atrial Fibrillation the patient will report with a heart rate of 160 bpm or more.
- When a patient experiences A-fib, the atria are not contracting as they normally would. They are just quivering. This absence of contraction of the atria can result in a loss of cardiac output anywhere from 15 - 30% due to the absence of "atrial kick". This is why the heart rate is so high. The body is trying to maintain homeostasis.
- It will be impossible to determine the atrial rate. You will only be able to analyze and report the ventricular rate.
- Atrial Fibrillation with a ventricular response in excess of 100 bpm is commonly referred to as Atrial Fibrillation with “rapid ventricular response” or "uncontrolled A-fib".
Analyze this tracing using the five steps of rhythm analysis.
- Rhythm: Irregular
- Rate: Ventricles - 90, Atria - Unable to determine (UTD)
- P wave: "f" waves
- PR interval: absent
- QRS: 0.08
- Interpretation: Atrial Fibrillation
Authors and Sources
Authors and Reviewers
- ECG heart rhythm modules: Thomas O'Brien.
- ECG monitor simulation developer: Steve Collmann
12 Lead Course: Dr. Michael Mazzini, MD.
- Spanish language ECG: Breena R. Taira, MD, MPH
- Medical review: Dr. Jonathan Keroes, MD
- Medical review: Dr. Pedro Azevedo, MD, Cardiology
- Last Update: 11/8/2021
Electrocardiography for Healthcare Professionals, 5th Edition
Kathryn Booth and Thomas O'Brien
ISBN10: 1260064778, ISBN13: 9781260064773
McGraw Hill, 2019
Rapid Interpretation of EKG's, Sixth Edition
Cover Publishing Company
12 Lead EKG for Nurses: Simple Steps to Interpret Rhythms, Arrhythmias, Blocks, Hypertrophy, Infarcts, & Cardiac Drugs
Create Space Independent Publishing
Heart Sounds and Murmurs: A Practical Guide with Audio CD-ROM 3rd Edition
Elsevier-Health Sciences Division
Barbara A. Erickson, PhD, RN, CCRN
The Virtual Cardiac Patient: A Multimedia Guide to Heart Sounds, Murmurs, EKG
Jonathan Keroes, David Lieberman
Publisher: Lippincott Williams & Wilkin)
ISBN-10: 0781784425; ISBN-13: 978-0781784429
- Project Semilla, UCLA Emergency Medicine, EKG Training Breena R. Taira, MD, MPH