Increased dispersion of "refractoriness" in patients with idiopathic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation

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The average interval between local depolarizations during atrial fibrillation, the so-called atrial fibrillation interval, was used as an index for local "refractoriness." This was based on the assumption that during fibrillation, cells are reexcited as soon as their refractory period ends. A very good correlation was found between refractory periods determined with the extrastimulus technique at a basic cycle length of 400 ms and atrial fibrillation intervals measured at the same epicardial sites of the right atrium. This new technique was used to assess dispersion in atrial fibrillation intervals in 10 patients with idiopathic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation and in a control group of 6 patients who were undergoing cardiac surgery. After a routine median sternotomy a multiterminal grid with up to 40 electrodes was placed over the right atrium, and atrial fibrillation was induced by premature stimulation. The average fibrillation interval in the test group, recorded at 247 sites, was 152 ± 3 ms and that is the control group, recorded at 118 sites, was 176 ± 8.1 ms (p < 0.05). Dispersion in atrial fibrillation intervals, defined as the variance of the fibrillation intervals at all the recording sites, was three times larger in the group with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation than in the control group. This study suggests that both a shorter refractory period and a larger dispersion in refractoriness are responsible for the recurrence of atrial fibrilation. © 1992.




Ramdat Misier, A. R., Opthof, T., van Hemel, N. M., Defauw, J. J. A. M., de Bakker, J. M. T., Janse, M. J., & van Capelle, F. J. L. (1992). Increased dispersion of “refractoriness” in patients with idiopathic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 19(7), 1531–1535.

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