UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Cardiology

Title: rightward axis on the ECG

Keywords: electrocardiography (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/28/2008 by Amal Mattu, MD (Updated: 8/12/2020)
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There are many causes of rightward axis on electrocardiography: RVH, COPD, acute (e.g. PE) or chronic (e.g. COPD, cor pulmonale) pulmonary hyptertension, sodium channel blocking drug toxicity (e.g. TCAs), ventricular tachycardia, hyperkalemia, dextrocardia, left posterior fascicular block, prior lateral MI, and of course misplaced leads.

In emergency medicine, however, the causes of acute/NEW rightward axis constitutes a smaller list. Perhaps the two most important causes of acute/new rightward axis in emergency medicine that should be remembered are PE and sodium channel blocker toxicity. In both of these conditions, the rightward axis may be the only obvious finding on the ECG.

The takeaway point is this: when you see new righward axis (compared to an old ECG) and you see nothing else "jumping out" at you, consider PE and consider sodium channel blocker toxicity.