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Physiol Rev. 2004 Apr;84(2):431-88.

Basic mechanisms of cardiac impulse propagation and associated arrhythmias.

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Department of Physiology, University of Bern, Bühlplatz 5, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland.


Propagation of excitation in the heart involves action potential (AP) generation by cardiac cells and its propagation in the multicellular tissue. AP conduction is the outcome of complex interactions between cellular electrical activity, electrical cell-to-cell communication, and the cardiac tissue structure. As shown in this review, strong interactions occur among these determinants of electrical impulse propagation. A special form of conduction that underlies many cardiac arrhythmias involves circulating excitation. In this situation, the curvature of the propagating excitation wavefront and the interaction of the wavefront with the repolarization tail of the preceding wave are additional important determinants of impulse propagation. This review attempts to synthesize results from computer simulations and experimental preparations to define mechanisms and biophysical principles that govern normal and abnormal conduction in the heart.

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