What is Wellens’ Syndrome?

A 48 year old male presents with a 30 minute episode of central chest pain 12 hours ago.

His cardiac enzymes are normal. His ECG looks is below. What do you do?

ECG Wellens Syndrome

ECG Wellens Syndrome Type 1

 

Wellens’ Syndrome.

Essentially it’s an ECG abnormality strongly associated with significant left anterior descending coronary artery stenosis.

There are 2 types of Wellens syndrome:

More detailed crieteria for the diagnosis of Wellens’ syndrome:

  • Either of the 2 T wave abnormalities described above.
  • History of chest pain.
  • Normal / minimally elevated cardiac enzymes.
  • No pathological Praecordial Q waves.
  • Minimal / no ST elevation.
  • No loss of praecordial R waves.
Professor Hein J.J. Wellens

Professor Hein Wellens

First described in 1982 by Professor Hein J. J. Wellens. This syndrome has, along with Brugada Syndrome, become one of the essential instant recognition abnormalities on ECG for Emergency Physicians. The significance of it in a population that could otherwise be sent home from the emergency department is that stress testing as part of your further risk stratification is probably a bad idea. This ECG pattern is strongly associated with a widow maker lesion – with 100% of 180 patients with the pattern having >50% stenosis of the left anterior descending coronary artery (mean = 85%), with complete or near complete occlusion in almost 60%.

Stress testing may prove fatal as there is usually minimal collateral circulation to a large part of the anterior myocardium. Once identified these patients need urgent / emergent angiography and intervention.

Knowledge of Wellens’ Syndrome is becoming so pervasive in some Emergency medicine centres that I’ve frequently heard ECG’s being referred to as ‘Wellenoid’.

References

  • de Zwaan C, Bär FW, Janssen JH, Cheriex EC, Dassen WR, Brugada P, Penn OC, Wellens HJ. Angiographic and clinical characteristics of patients with unstable angina showing an ECG pattern indicating critical narrowing of the proximal LAD coronary artery. Am Heart J. 1989 Mar;117(3):657-65. [ PMID: 2784024 ]
  • Vanpee D, Courouble P, Marchandise B, Gillet JB.Wellens’ syndrome.Ann Emerg Med. 1999 Nov;34(5):684-5.[PMID: 10533023 ]
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  1. Jaimie says

    Had a patient come in with one of these last night -- thanks for your blog -- explained it really well!

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