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Cardiovasc Res. 1998 Apr;38(1):69-81.

Non-invasive assessment of the atrial cycle length during atrial fibrillation in man: introducing, validating and illustrating a new ECG method.

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  • 1Department of Cardiology, University Hospital, Lund, Sweden.



Atrial fibrillation (AF) in man has previously been shown to include a wide variety of atrial activity. Assessment of the characteristics of this arrhythmia with a commonly applicable tool may therefore be important in the choice and evaluation of different therapeutic strategies. As the AF cycle length has been shown to correlate locally with atrial refractoriness and globally with the degree of atrial organization, with, in general, shorter cycle length during apparently random AF compared to more organized AF, we have developed a new method for non-invasive assessment of the AF cycle length using the surface and the esophagus (ESO) ECG.


From the frequency spectrum of the residual ECG, created by suppression of the QRST complexes, the dominant atrial cycle length (DACL) was derived. By comparison with multiple intracardiac simultaneously acquired right and left AF cycle lengths in patients with paroxysmal AF, we found that the DACL in lead V1, ranging from 130 to 185 ms, well represented a spatial average of the right AF cycle lengths, whereas the DACL in the ESO ECG, ranging from 140 to 185 ms, reflected both the right and the left AF cycle length, where the influence from each structure depended on the atrial anatomy of the individual, as determined by MRI. In patients with chronic AF, the method was capable of following changes in the AF cycle length due to administration of D,L-sotalol and 5 min of ECG recording was sufficient for the DACL to be reproducible.


We conclude that this new non-invasive method, named 'Frequency Analysis of Fibrillatory ECG' (FAF-ECG), is capable of assessing both the magnitude and the dynamics of the atrial fibrillation cycle length in man.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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