We measured the wavelength of the cardiac impulse, defined as the distance traveled by the depolarization wave during the functional refractory period, in isolated narrow strips of rabbit atrium. During control, wavelength was 42 mm during pacing with 2 Hz, and was 28 mm at the maximum pacing rate; early premature beats had a wavelength as short as 23 mm. Administration of carbamylcholine (4 x 10-7 g/ml) shortened the wavelength to 21 mm during 2 Hz, 18 mm at the maximum pacing rate F(max) and 16 mm during an early premature impulse, respectively. The effects of epinephrine (6 x 10-7 M) were strongly rate dependent. At slow heart rates, epinephine clearly prolonged the wavelength (58 mm), whereas, during maximum pacing, wavelength remained unchanged (28 mm). Hypokalemia (2 mM) decreased the length of the impulse at all stimulation frequencies. Moderate hyperkalemia (5.6 and 7.0 mM) did not modify wavelength because refractoriness and conduction velocity were affected proportionally. Above 7.0 mM potassium, the wavelength became progressively prolonged because of the development of post-repolarization refractoriness. Cooling to 27°C resulted in a slight lengthening of the impulse. At lower temperatures, however, wavelength prolonged significantly because of a relatively strong prolongation of the refractory period. In separate experiments in 15 x 20 mm segments of atrium, reentrant tachyarrhythmias were induced and the circuit size compared with the wavelength. The size of intraatrial circuits was similar to the magnitude of the measured wavelength during maximum pacing. Carbamylcholine and hypokalemia, both of which shorten the impulse length, also clearly decreased the size of reentrant circuits. Cooling to 27° C, which affects both refractoriness and conduction velocity, only slightly prolonged the wavelength; acccordingly, the size of reentrant ciruits at 27°C was only slightly longer than at 37°C. These experiments emphasize the importance of the wavelength of the cardiac impulse in relation to the occurrence of intramyocardial reentry.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine