Torsade de Pointes Complicating the Treatment of Bleeding Esophageal Varices: Association with Neuroleptics, Vasopressin, and Electrolyte Imbalance

Douglas O. Faigel, David C. Metz, Michael L. Kochman

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65 Scopus citations


Torsade de pointes is an unusual life‐threatening ventricular arrhythmia that has been associated with vasopressin, neuroleptic drugs, and electrolyte imbalances, including hypokaleniia and hypomagnesemia. Over a 9‐month period, we observed torsade de pointes in three patients with cirrhosis and bleeding esophageal varices who did not have prior cardiac disease. All had received endoscopic sclerotherapy and continuous infusions of vasopressin and nitroglycerin. For sedation, two patients received haloperidol and one droperidol. In addition, two patients had either hypokalemia or hypomagnesemia. In all three patients, there was prolongation of the electrocardiographic QT interval and a “long‐short” initiating sequence followed by ventricular tachycardia with torsade de pointes morphology. All were successfully cardioverted; there was one late death due to aspiration and septicemia. We conclude that cirrhotics with variceal hemorrhage may be at increased risk of developing this arrhythmia in the setting of treatment with vasopressin, sedation with neuroleptic drugs, and electrolyte abnormalities. We urge close monitoring of these patients for cardiac arrhythmia and recommend that neuroleptics be used cautiously, if at all.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-824
Number of pages3
JournalThe American Journal of Gastroenterology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology

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