Sinus Node Rhythms and Arrhythmias

«Basics Step 2: Heart Rate»

Author(s) J.S.S.G. de Jong
Moderator I.A.C. van der Bilt
some notes about authorship

Please read the introduction to the 7+2 step plan first.

The sinus node (SA) is located in the roof of the right atrium. It is the fastest physiological pacemaker. When the sinus node generates an electrical impulse, the surrounding cells of the right atrium depolarize. Then the cells of the left atrium, the AV (atrioventricular)node, follow, and at last the ventricles are stimulated via the His bundle.

With this knowledge it is quite simple to recognize normal sinus rhythm on the ECG.

Criteria for normal sinus rhythm (see also Basics):
  • A P wave morphology P wave (atrial contraction) precedes every QRS complex
  • The rhythm is regular, but varies slightly during respirations
  • The rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute
  • The P waves maximum height at 2.5 mm in II and/or III
  • The P wave is positive in I and II, and biphasic in V1

As you can see, knowledge of heart rate and P wave morphology are necessary to determine the rhythm. We have put Rhythm as step 1 as it is of great importance. Arrhythmias include the most life-threatening ECG abnormalities. In most settings, however, the rhythm will be sinus.

If the rhythm is not sinus, the Arrhythmias algorithm should be followed.

Sinus arrhythmias

Some variants of sinus rhythm exist:

Arrhythmias are discussed in the Arrhythmias chapter.

If the heart rate exceeds 100 bpm, the tachcyardia flow chart should be followed.