Dressler beat: Specifically a ‘ventricular fusion beat‘ in the presence of paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia. Typically observed in ECG tracings of wide complex tachycardia such as VT with AV dissociation.
Supraventricular and a ventricular impulses coincide to produce a hybrid complex which is different to the VT complex and the native complex (capture beat)
The term ‘fusion beat‘ was originally used to define any hybrid QRS complex of atria or ventricular origin. Fusion beats (and capture beats) are not ‘diagnostic‘ or ‘pathognomic‘ of VT and can occur in any arrhythmia (including SVT with aberrancy for example)
ECG Examples of Dressler beats
Dressler original description of fusion beats in VT (1952)
Young et al Dressler beats in VT (1973)
Lown et al Fusion and Capture beats in VT (1973)
Marriott et al Ventricular fusion beats (1962)
History of the Dressler beat
1943 – Cooke WT and White PD writing on paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia include two tracings (Fig. 13, Case 21; and Fig. 1, Case 22) which show variations in the shape of the ventricular complexes apparently due to conduction of sinoauricular excitations.
In discussing their Fig. 1, Case 22, the authors observe that “…breaks in the ventricular rhythm in Leads I and II are shown…” without commenting on the mechanism involved. [Cooke, White: Br Heart J. 1943]
1948 – Malinow and Langendorf developed a classification table for the various types of ‘fusion beat’ and illustrate the proposed mechanisms for fusion beat formation. As detailed in their proposed classification – fusion beats are not synonymous with VT.
“Since the fusing impulses can be of either different or identical origin, and since fusion which is reflected in the electrogardiagram can take place either in the auricle or in the ventricle four different types of fusion beats can be distinguished. “
1952 – Dressler stated that “…reports in the literature on the occurrence of ventricular fusion beats in paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia are scant.” He reported six cases of paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, which demonstrated variations of the ventricular complexes “transitional in shape to sinoauricular beats” and termed them ‘ventricular fusion beats’.
Dressler original description of fusion beats in VT
“Six instances of paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia are reported, which show variations of the ventricular complexes transitional in shape to sinoauricular beats. The variations are caused by transmission of atrial excitations to the ventricles, which mostly results in ventricular fusion beats. The regularity of the ventricular rhythm is only exceptionally disturbed by conduction of atrial excitations.
In the presence of paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia, dissociation with interference develops infrequently because of the shortness of the ventricular cycle. When it does occur, the ventricular rate is usually less than 150 per minute
The finding of ventricular complexes which are transitional in configuration to sinoauricular beats may be an aid in the diagnosis of paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia when an independent atrial rhythm is not readily recognizable.”
[Dressler W: Am Heart J. 1952 ;44(4):485-493]
1962 – Marriott, Schwartz and Bix reviewed and demonstrated stages of ventricular fusion beat development in a multitude of rhythms. They define ventricular fusion as a
…summation or combination beats occur when two separate pacemakers compete for control of the ventricles. The usual pair of pacemakers are the sinoatrial node and an ectopic ventricular focus; but any pair of pacemakers, whose impulses invade the ventricular myocardium more or less simultaneously but at different points, can produce fusion beats.[Marriott: Circulation. 1962]
- Wilhelm Dressler (1890–1969)
- Paul Dudley White (1886–1973)
- Bernard Lown (1921 – )
- Hein Wellens (1935 – )
- Fusion beat
- Ventricular fusion beat
Potentially we should revert to the use of ‘Dressler beat‘ in the presence of VT. The term ‘fusion beat’ was originally used to define any hybrid QRS complex of atria or ventricular origin. Fusion beats (and capture beats) are not ‘diagnostic‘ of VT and can occur in any arrhythmia (including SVT with aberrancy for example)
Various publications cite Dressler beat as either fusion beat or capture beat. Dressler describes the abnormal hybrid complex associated with ventricular fusion beats (Dressler beat) as opposed to a native complex in VT (capture beat)
The conducted supraventricular beat may arrive coincident with discharge of the ectopic focus, in which case complexes may emerge with configurations intermediate between normal and those of the VT. Lown (1973)
During four episodes of ventricular tachycardia, capture beats (Dressler beats) led to an irregular ventricular rhythm. Wellens (1978)
- Cooke WT, White PD. Paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia. Br Heart J. 1943 Jan; 5(1): 33–54. [PMC503512]
- Katz LN. Electrocardiography. Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia. 1947 [Figure 322, 328]
- Malinow MR, Langendorf R. Different mechanisms of fusion beats. Am Heart J. 1948;35(3):448-457Malinow-Langendorf. Proposed Classification of Fusion Beats., 1948
- Dressler W, Roesler H. The occurrence in paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia of ventricular complexes transitional in shape to sinoauricular beats: A diagnostic aid. Am Heart J. 1952 Oct;44(4):485-93. [PMID 12976333] [Dressler beat]
- Marriott HJL, Schwartz NL, Bix HH. Ventricular Fusion Beats. Circulation. 1962;26:880-884
- Young RL, Mower MM, Ramapuram GM, Tabatznik B. Atrial fibrillation with ventricular tachycardia showing “Dressler” beats. Chest. 1973 Jan;63(1):96-97. [PMID 4684121]
- Lown B, Temte JV, Arter WJ. Ventricular Tachyarrhythmias: Clinical aspects. Circulation. 1973;47:1364-1381
- Wellens HJ, Bär FW, Lie KI. The value of the electrocardiogram in the differential diagnosis of a tachycardia with a widened QRS complex. Am J Med. 1978 Jan;64(1):27-33. [PMID 623134]
- Smith S. Wide Complex Tachycardia with Fusion and Capture Beats. Not what you think. Dr. Smith’s ECG Blog. 2016
- Burns E. Fusion Beats. LITFL. 2017