• We examined the incidence of complete heart block (CHB) as a complication of pulmonary artery catheterization with balloon-tipped, flow-directed catheters in patients with left bundle-branch block (LBBB). The study group included 47 consecutive critically ill patients with LBBB in the medical intensive care and coronary care units, who underwent a total of 82 pulmonary artery catheterizations. Twenty-six patients had an acute myocardial infarction, 34 patients had severe congestive heart failure (Killip class III or class IV), and 15 patients died during their hospitalization. Thirty patients had an old LBBB (more than one month in age), nine patients had a new LBBB, and the age of the LBBB was indeterminate in eight patients. There were five episodes of CHB in the group of patients with old LBBB. However, none of these episodes were related to the pulmonary artery catheterization, since CHB occurred either prior to catheterization (one case) or from one to 16 days after the pulmonary artery catheter had been removed (four cases). There were no episodes of CHB related to the pulmonary artery catheterization procedure in the patients with either old LBBB or indeterminate-aged LBBB. There were two episodes of CHB in patients with new LBBB. In both patients, the CHB occurred one day after the pulmonary artery catheter had been inserted. In both patients, CHB developed after episodes of ventricular tachycardia that eventually resulted in their deaths. Although it is unlikely, we could not rule out the possibility that the CHB was related to the presence of the pulmonary artery catheter. We conclude that the incidence of CHB complicating pulmonary artery catheterization with balloon-tipped, flow-directed catheters in critically ill patients with old or indeterminate-aged LBBB is extremely low. Therefore, we donot recommend the routine placement of a temporary transvenous pacemaker in all patients with LBBB prior to pulmonary artery catheterization.
(Arch Intern Med 1987;147:2005-2010)