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J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 1996 Dec;7(12):1183-96.

Modeling the interaction between propagating cardiac waves and monophasic and biphasic field stimuli: the importance of the induced spatial excitatory response.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



Biphasic (BP) defibrillation waveforms have been shown to be significantly more efficacious than equivalent monophasic (MP) waveforms. However, when defibrillation fails, it tends to do so first in distal regions of the heart where induced field gradient magnitudes are lowest. We tested the hypothesis that the improved efficacy of BP waveforms results from their enhanced ability to prevent the initiation of new postshock activation fronts behind preexisting wavetails, rather than from any significantly improved ability to terminate preexisting wavefronts.


An idealized computer model of a one-dimensional cardiac strand was used to investigate the spatial and temporal interactions between an underlying propagation front (or tail) and uniform MP or BP field stimuli of various intensities. Axial discontinuities from intercellular junctions induced sawtooth patterns of polarization during such field stimuli, enabling the shocks to interact directly with all cells. MP and BP diastolic thresholds were essentially equal. All suprathreshold MP and BP field stimuli successfully terminated preexisting wavefronts by directly depolarizing tissue ahead of those fronts, thus blocking their continued progression. However, the postshock response at the wavetail was significantly dependent on the shape and strength of the administered field. Low-strength MP stimuli induced an all-or-none excitation response across the wavetail, producing a sharp spatial transmembrane voltage gradient from which a new sustained anterogradely propagating wavefront was initiated. In contrast, low-strength BP field stimuli induced a spatially graded excitatory response whose voltage gradient was insufficient to initiate such a wavefront. Higher-strength MP and BP stimuli both produced graded excitatory responses with no subsequent propagation.


Shock-induced spatial "all-or-none" excitatory responses facilitate, and graded excitatory responses prevent, the postshock initiation of new propagating wavefronts. Moreover, BP field stimuli can induce such graded excitatory responses at significantly lower stimulus strengths than otherwise equivalent MP stimuli. Therefore, these results support an alternative "graded excitatory response" mechanism for the improved efficacy of BP over MP field stimuli in low gradient regions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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