Skip to Main Content


Emergency cardiac pacing can be accomplished by several methods. These include epicardial, esophageal, transcutaneous, transthoracic, and transvenous pacing. pacing can be a temporizing and lifesaving technique that should be familiar to physicians working in an Emergency Department. It will allow the patient to maintain a cardiac rhythm while providing oxygen and nutrients to the vital organs.


The earliest use of electricity to stimulate the heart can be found in an essay written in the late 1700s.1 It discusses the use of electric current and artificial ventilation to revive victims of drowning. Transvenous pacing was first attempted on dogs in 1905 by Floresco.The technology and technique have since been developed to allow successful transvenous pacing in humans. It involves the placement of a pacing wire through the central venous circulation and into direct contact with the myocardium of the right ventricle.


The heart is the only muscle of the body that generates its own electric impulses. Its automaticity and subsequent rhythmic contractions propel blood to the tissues of the body. The initial cardiac impulse starts in the right atrium of the heart at the sinoatrial (SA) node. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems control the rate of impulse generation at the SA node. Once the electric stimulus is generated, it is conducted along the internal conduction pathways of the heart to the muscular atrial and ventricular walls. A delicate balance between electrolyte flux to create action potentials, myocardial integrity to allow impulses to become contractions, and an intact conduction system must be maintained. Conduction system problems are often the result of inadequate blood flow to the heart due to ventricular infarction and coronary artery occlusion. The blood supply to the conduction system of the heart originates from the right coronary artery. Occlusion of the right coronary artery can result in arrhythmias and conduction delays.


A transvenous pacing catheter may be introduced through the femoral, internal jugular, or subclavian vein. In the Emergency Department, the right internal jugular vein or left subclavian vein are the primary sites (Figure 22-1). These routes allow a more direct and easy access for the pacing catheter to enter the right ventricle. The right internal jugular vein is preferred, as it allows a relatively straight line of access through the superior vena cava and right atrium into the right ventricle.2 The other routes are technically more difficult to use and often require fluoroscopy for proper placement of the pacing catheter.

Graphic Jump Location

Common sites for introducing a transvenous pacing catheter. A. The right internal jugular vein. B. The left subclavian vein.


In children, the femoral vein is often used to insert a transvenous cardiac pacing catheter (Figure 22-2). The child’s relatively large head and short neck makes access to the internal jugular vein difficult. The subclavian vein in a ...

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Subscription Options

AccessEmergency Medicine Full Site: One-Year Subscription

Connect to the full suite of AccessEmergency Medicine content and resources including advanced 8th edition chapters of Tintinalli’s, high-quality procedural videos and images, interactive board review, an integrated drug database, and more.

$595 USD
Buy Now

Pay Per View: Timed Access to all of AccessEmergency Medicine

24 Hour Subscription $34.95

Buy Now

48 Hour Subscription $54.95

Buy Now

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.