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Clin Anat. 2009 Jan;22(1):99-113. doi: 10.1002/ca.20700.

The anatomy of the cardiac conduction system.

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Cardiovascular Research Group, Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, University of Manchester, Core Technology Facility, 46 Grafton Street, Manchester, United Kingdom.


All the myocytes within the heart have the capacity to conduct the cardiac impulse. A population of myocytes is specialized so as to generate the cardiac impulse and then to conduct it from the atrial to the ventricular chambers. This population has become known as the conduction system. Anatomists who seek to demonstrate the location of the components of this system must contend with the fact that the components of the system cannot be distinguished from the working myocardial elements by gross dissection. In important presentations to the German Pathological Society in 1910, rules were suggested for the histological distinction of these conducting cells. These rules proposed that the myocytes, to be considered as part of the conduction system, should be histologically discrete, traceable from section to section in serially prepared material, and if to be considered as tracts, should be insulated by fibrous tissue from the adjacent myocytes. Immunohistochemical techniques have now been developed that better demonstrate the distinction between the cells specialized to conduct from working myocytes. These new techniques, for the most part, confirm the accuracy of the initial descriptions. They also reveal additional areas with the characteristics of conduction tissues. These additional areas are located in a paranodal area adjacent to the sinus node, in the vestibules of both atrioventricular valvar orifices, and in a partial ring around the aortic root. In this review, we describe all these features, emphasizing the relationship of the newly recognized components to the established parts of the cardiac conduction system, and how the new findings need to be assessed in the light of the old criteria.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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