Action potential morphology heterogeneity in the atrium and its effect on atrial reentry: a two-dimensional and quasi-three-dimensional study.
INTRODUCTION In the development of atrial flutter due to reentry, the crista terminalis is supposed to pose a conduction barrier, but the role of its longitudinal conduction in determining the propagation pattern of the reentrant impulse is not known. In rabbit right atrial preparations, we induced reentrant atrial tachycardias and examined the effects of transverse section of the crista terminalis on the development and conduction patterns of arrhythmias. METHODS AND RESULTS Right atrial preparations from 12 albino rabbits were placed endocardial surface down in a chamber with an array of 48 bipolar electrodes to draw activation maps. A single premature stimulus was delivered to induce tachycardias at the free wall. In the control, five instances of tachycardia per preparation were induced and another five were induced after cutting the crista terminalis. In the control, the mean duration of tachycardia was 127.1+/-25.2 seconds. The tachycardia was counterclockwise in 39 of 60 instances, clockwise in 12, and undetermined in 4 defined as "atypical." After transverse section of the crista terminalis, the duration was prolonged to 372.6+/-30.4 seconds, but the conduction patterns were not changed. In the free wall, counterclockwise reentry had a broader wavefront and faster conduction than clockwise reentry. CONCLUSION Longitudinal conduction block at the crista terminalis contributed to maintenance of reentrant atrial tachycardias, but had no influence on their propagation patterns. Clockwise and counterclockwise rotation of impulses in reentrant tachycardias had different paths and velocities of the wavefront in the free wall of the right atrium.