Myocardial vulnerability to T wave shocks: relation to shock strength, shock coupling interval, and dispersion of ventricular repolarization

C L Fabritz, P F Kirchhof, S Behrens, M Zabel, M R Franz

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INTRODUCTION: Induction of ventricular fibrillation (VF) by T wave shocks is of clinical interest due to the correlation between the upper limit of vulnerability (ULV) and the defibrillation threshold (DFT). However, the ULV has not yet been defined precisely in reference to the entire "area of vulnerability" (AOV), which is defined bifunctionally by both shock strengths and shock coupling intervals, nor has it been related to the dispersion of ventricular repolarization, considered to be an important determinant of vulnerability.

METHODS AND RESULTS: In 11 isolated perfused rabbit hearts immersed in a tissue bath containing a 3-lead ECG recording system and two opposite plate electrodes for field shock administration, 7 monophasic action potentials (MAPs) were recorded simultaneously from different epicardial and endocardial regions of the right and left ventricles. An average of 90 +/- 25 monophasic waveform shocks of varying shock strengths and coupling intervals were delivered to each heart to determine the horizontal and vertical boundaries of the AOV. The AOV approximated a rhomboid with homogenous VF inducibility. The ULV and lower limit of vulnerability (LLV) represented discrete corners of the AOV with significant changes in VF inducibility if either shock coupling intervals or shock strength were changed by only 10 msec or 10 V, respectively (P < 0.001). The ULV occurred at 7 +/- 10 msec shorter coupling intervals than the LLV (P < 0.05), and VF-inducing shock strengths at the left corner of the AOV were 50 +/- 67 V higher as compared to the right corner (P < 0.01). The maximal range of VF-inducing coupling intervals coincided (within < 2 msec) with the dispersion of MAPs at 70% repolarization, and the ULV coupling interval coincided (within < 4 msec) with the longest repolarization at 50%.

CONCLUSIONS: (1) VF vulnerability to monophasic T wave shocks is defined by an AOV that has the shape of a leftward tilted rhomboid. (2) Both the ULV and LLV are sharply defined upper and lower corners of the AOV rhomboid. (3) The width of the AOV corresponds to the dispersion of ventricular repolarization at the 70% level. (4) Considering the dispersion of ventricular repolarization may yield more precise ULV determinations and a better understanding of the correlation between the ULV and DFT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-42
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cardiovascular Electrophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 1996


  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Differential Threshold
  • Electric Countershock
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electrophysiology
  • Electroshock
  • Heart
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Rabbits
  • Time Factors
  • Ventricular Function


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