Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2013 Jul;14(6):e289-e297. PMID: 23689705
OBJECTIVES: Our objectives were to describe the prevalence of arrhythmia and conduction abnormalities before critical care intubation and to test the hypothesis that atropine had no effect on their prevalence during intubation. DESIGN:: Prospective, observational study.
SETTING: PICU and pediatric/neonatal intensive care transport.
SUBJECTS: All children of age less than 8 years intubated September 2007-2009. Subgroups of intubations with and without atropine were analyzed.
MEASUREMENT AND MAIN RESULTS: A total of 414 intubations were performed in the study period of which 327 were available for analysis (79%). Five children (1.5%) had arrhythmias prior to intubation and were excluded from the atropine analysis. Atropine was used in 47% (152/322) of intubations and resulted in significant acceleration of heart rate without provoking ventricular arrhythmias. New arrhythmias during intubation were related to bradycardia and were less common with atropine use (odds ratio, 0.14 [95% CI, 0.06-0.35], p < 0.001). The most common new arrhythmia was junctional rhythm. Acute bundle branch block was observed during three intubations; one Mobitz type 2 rhythm and five ventricular escape rhythms occurred in the no-atropine group (n = 170). Only one ventricular escape rhythm occurred in the atropine group (n = 152) in a child with an abnormal heart. One child died during intubation who had not received atropine.
CONCLUSIONS: Atropine significantly reduced the prevalence of new arrhythmias during intubation particularly for children over 1 month of age, did not convert sinus tachycardia to ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, and may contribute to the safety of intubation.