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Heart Rhythm. 2013 Mar;10(3):428-35. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2012.11.019. Epub 2012 Nov 24.

Low-level transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the auricular branch of the vagus nerve: a noninvasive approach to treat the initial phase of atrial fibrillation.

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1
Department of Cardiology, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan, China.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

We studied the effects of transcutaneous electrical stimulation at the tragus, the anterior protuberance of the outer ear, for inhibiting atrial fibrillation (AF).

OBJECTIVE:

To develop a noninvasive transcutaneous approach to deliver low-level vagal nerve stimulation to the tragus in order to treat cardiac arrhythmias such as AF.

METHODS:

In 16 pentobarbital anesthetized dogs, multielectrode catheters were attached to pulmonary veins and atria. Three tungsten-coated microelectrodes were inserted into the anterior right ganglionated plexi to record neural activity. Tragus stimulation (20 Hz) in the right ear was accomplished by attaching 2 alligator clips onto the tragus. The voltage slowing the sinus rate or atrioventricular conduction was used as the threshold for setting the low-level tragus stimulation (LL-TS) at 80% below the threshold. At baseline, programmed stimulation determined the effective refractory period (ERP) and the window of vulnerability (WOV), a measure of AF inducibility. For hours 1-3, rapid atrial pacing (RAP) was applied alone, followed by concomitant RAP+LL-TS for hours 4-6 (N = 6). The same parameters were measured during sinus rhythm when RAP stopped after each hour. In 4 other animals, bivagal transection was performed before LL-TS.

RESULTS:

During hours 1-3 of RAP, there was a progressive and significant decrease in ERP, increase in WOV, and increase in neural activity vs baseline (all P < .05). With RAP+LL-TS during hours 4-6, there was a linear return of ERP, WOV, and neural activity toward baseline levels (all P < .05, compared to the third-hour values). In 4 dogs, bivagal transection prevented the reversal of ERP and WOV despite 3 hours of RAP+LL-TS.

CONCLUSIONS:

LL-TS can reverse RAP-induced atrial remodeling and inhibit AF inducibility, suggesting a potential noninvasive treatment of AF.

PMID:
23183191
DOI:
10.1016/j.hrthm.2012.11.019
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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