Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome

Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) Syndrome is a combination of the presence of a congenital accessory pathway and episodes of tachyarrhythmia.

WPW syndrome is characterized by a double stimulation of the ventricles. A premature conduction wave via accessory pathways (pre-excitation) stimulates the portions of the ventricles nearest the atrium; then the ventricles depolarize as a result of the conduction wave which proceeds normally through the atrioventricular (AV) node.

The clinical significance of this syndrome depends on the appearance of (supraventricular) reentry tachycardias.

History of Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome

1909 – Retrospective review of published case reports looking for evidence of ventricular preexcitation shows the earliest example of WPW published is from August Hoffmann (1862-1929) published in MMW 1909; 56(2): 2259-2262

1909 WPW Hoffmann via VON KNORRE
Remastered ECG from original white on black images via Von Knorre GH. The earliest published electrocardiogram showing ventricular preexcitation. Pacing Clin Electrophysiol. 2005 Mar;28(3):228-230

The short PR interval and slurred initial portion of the QRS complex were first noted by:

1928 – On April 2 a young man was referred to Paul Dudley White because his physician was perplexed by the occurrence of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in a healthy individual. White was preparing for visits to overseas medical centers and took the ECGs with him.

  • Vienna: the tracing was deemed to represent nothing more unusual than bundle-branch block and atrioventricular (AV) nodal rhythm
  • London: Parkinson was interested and found a further seven cases to add to the four from Boston.

1930Wolff L, Parkinson J, and White PD publish the eleven cases as definitive description of the syndrome – ‘Bundle Branch Block with Short P-R Interval in Healthy Young People Prone to Paroxysmal Tachycardia.’ A review of the literature confirmed and acknowledged the previously described cases as above. Wolff, Parkinson, and White erroneously thought that the wide QRS complex was caused by a type of bundle-branch block.

WPW 1930 Fig 6
Fig 6. Case III. WPW 1930

1933 – Wolferth and Wood suggested that the abnormal slurring of the initial part of the QRS complex, and prolongation of the QRS complex were not due to bundle-branch block but by:

…an actual acceleration of the passage of the impulse from the auricle to a section of the ventricle…in keeping with the possibility that an accessory pathway of AV conduction such as described by Kent between the right auricle and right ventricle could be responsible for the phenomenon manifested by these cases

Wolferth CC, Wood FC. 1933

1944 – Segers PM, Lequime J and Denolin proposed the symbol Δ to represent the triangle shape at the base of the upsloping QRS complex. They described the ‘… deformation of the PQ segment is the result of a supplementary electrical deflection that we propose to call Δ‘ . This became more commonly described as the ‘delta wave

Associated Persons


Historical references

Eponymous term review review

Advanced Reading



LITFL Further Reading




Emergency physician MA (Oxon) MBChB (Edin) FACEM FFSEM with a passion for rugby; medical history; medical education; and asynchronous learning #FOAMed evangelist. Co-founder and CTO of Life in the Fast lane | Eponyms | Books | Twitter |

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