Spiral waves of excitation underlie reentrant activity in isolated cardiac muscle.
The mechanism of reentrant ventricular tachycardia was studied in computer simulations and in thin (approximately 20 x 20 x 0.5-mm) slices of dog and sheep ventricular epicardial muscle. A two-dimensional matrix consisting of 96 x 96 electrically coupled cells modeled by the FitzHugh-Nagumo equations was used to analyze the dynamics of self-sustaining reentrant activity in the form of elliptical spiral waves induced by premature stimulation. In homogeneous anisotropic media, spirals are stationary and may last indefinitely. However, the presence of small parameter gradients may lead to drifting and eventual termination of the spiral at the boundary of the medium. On the other hand, spirals may anchor and rotate around small discontinuities within the matrix. Similar results were obtained experimentally in 10 preparations whose electrical activity was monitored by means of a potentiometric dye and high-resolution optical mapping techniques; premature stimulation triggered reproducible episodes of sustained or nonsustained reentrant tachycardia in the form of spiral waves. As a rule, the spirals were elongated, with the major hemiaxis parallel to the longitudinal axis of the cells. The period of rotation (183 +/- 68 msec [mean +/- SD]) was longer than the refractory period (131 +/- 38 msec) and appeared to be determined by the size of the spiral's core, which was measured using a newly devised "frame-stack" plot. Drifting of spiral waves was also observed experimentally. Drift velocity was 9.8% of the velocity of wave propagation. In some cases, the core became stationary by anchoring to small arteries or other heterogeneities, and the spiral rotated rhythmically for prolonged periods of time. Yet, when drift occurred, spatiotemporal variations in the excitation period were manifested as a result of a Doppler effect, with the excitation period ahead of the core being 20 +/- 6% shorter than the excitation period behind the core. As a result of these coexisting frequencies, a pseudoelectrocardiogram of the activity in the presence of a drifting spiral wave exhibited "QRS complexes" with an undulating axis, which resembled those observed in patients with torsade de pointes. The overall results show that spiral wave activity is a property of cardiac muscle and suggest that such activity may be the common mechanism of a number of monomorphic and polymorphic tachycardias.
- Copyright © 1993 by American Heart Association