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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2000 Sep;279(3):H1055-70.

Virtual electrode polarization in the far field: implications for external defibrillation.

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Department of Cardiology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio 44195, USA.


We recently suggested that failure of implantable defibrillation therapy may be explained by the virtual electrode-induced phase singularity mechanism. The goal of this study was to identify possible mechanisms of vulnerability and defibrillation by externally applied shocks in vitro. We used bidomain simulations of realistic rabbit heart fibrous geometry to predict the passive polarization throughout the heart induced by external shocks. We also used optical mapping to assess anterior epicardium electrical activity during shocks in Langendorff-perfused rabbit hearts (n = 7). Monophasic shocks of either polarity (10-260 V, 8 ms, 150 microF) were applied during the T wave from a pair of mesh electrodes. Postshock epicardial virtual electrode polarization was observed after all 162 applied shocks, with positive polarization facing the cathode and negative polarization facing the anode, as predicted by the bidomain simulations. During arrhythmogenesis, a new wave front was induced at the boundary between the two regions near the apex but not at the base. It spread across the negatively polarized area toward the base of the heart and reentered on the other side while simultaneously spreading into the depth of the wall. Thus a scroll wave with a ribbon-shaped filament was formed during external shock-induced arrhythmia. Fluorescent imaging and passive bidomain simulations demonstrated that virtual electrode polarization-induced scroll waves underlie mechanisms of shock-induced vulnerability and failure of external defibrillation.

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