Premature Junctional Complex (PJC)
A premature beat arising from an ectopic focus within the Atrioventricular (AV) junction.
AKA: Junctional Ectopics, Junctional Extrasystoles, Junctional Premature Beats, Junctional Premature Depolarisations
Origin of Ectopic Beats
- Groups of pacemaker cells throughout the conducting system are capable of spontaneous depolarisation.
- The rate of depolarisation decreases from top to bottom: fastest at the sinoatrial node; slowest within the ventricles.
- Ectopic impulses from subsidiary pacemakers are normally suppressed by more rapid impulses from above.
- However, if an ectopic focus depolarises early enough — before the arrival of the next sinus impulse — it may “capture” the ventricles, producing a premature contraction.
- Premature contractions (“ectopics”) are classified by their origin — atrial (PACs), junctional (PJCs) or ventricular (PVCs).
- Junctional ectopics are much less common than PACs or PVCs.
- These arise from the region of the AV node, so the ventricles are usually activated normally.
PJCs have the following features:
- Narrow QRS complex, either (1) without a preceding P wave or (2) with a retrograde P wave which may appear before, during, or after the QRS complex. If before, there is a short PR interval of < 120 ms and the “retrograde” P waves are usually inverted in leads II, III and aVF.
- Occurs sooner than would be expected for the next sinus impulse.
- Followed by a compensatory pause.
- PJCs that arrive early in the cycle may be conducted aberrantly, most commonly with a RBBB morphology.
Typical appearance of PJCs:
- Premature QRS complexes without a preceding P wave.
- The QRS morphology is very similar to the sinus complexes.
LITFL Further Reading
- ECG Library Basics – Waves, Intervals, Segments and Clinical Interpretation
- ECG A to Z by diagnosis – ECG interpretation in clinical context
- ECG Exigency and Cardiovascular Curveball – ECG Clinical Cases
- 100 ECG Quiz – Self-assessment tool for examination practice
- ECG Reference SITES and BOOKS – the best of the rest
- Brady WJ, Truwit JD. Critical Decisions in Emergency and Acute Care Electrocardiography
- Surawicz B, Knilans T. Chou’s Electrocardiography in Clinical Practice: Adult and Pediatric
- Wagner GS. Marriott’s Practical Electrocardiography 12e
- Chan TC. ECG in Emergency Medicine and Acute Care
- Rawshani A. Clinical ECG Interpretation
- Mattu A. ECG’s for the Emergency Physician
- Hampton JR. The ECG In Practice, 6e