Elucidation of the mechanisms of cardiac conduction disturbances leading to reentry will require resolution of the details of multidimensional propagation at a microscopic size scale (<200 μm). In practice, this will necessitate the combined analysis of extracellular and transmembrane action potentials. The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate the relationships between the time derivatives of the extracellular waveforms and the underlying action potentials in the experimental analysis of anisotropic propagation at this small size scale, and apply these relationships to human atrial muscle at different ages. The extracellular waveforms and their derivatives changed from a smooth contour during transverse propagation in young preparations to complex polyphasic waveforms in the older preparations. The major problem was to estimate the size and location of small groups of fibers that generated the complex waveforms in the older preparations. We found dissimilarities in the derivatives that distinguished source (bundle) size from the distance of the source to the measurement site. The differences in the extracellular waveforms and their derivatives indicated that there was electrical uncoupling of the side-to-side connections between small groups of fibers with aging. These changes produced a prominent zigzag course of transverse propagation at a microscopic level which, in turn, accounted for the increased complexity of the waveforms. The waveform differences also correlated with the development of extensive collagenous septa that separated small groups of fibers. The electrophysiological consequence was an age-related decrease in the 'effective' transverse conduction velocities to the range of the very slow conduction (<0.08 m/sec) which makes it possible for reentry to occur in small regions of cardiac muscle with normal cellular electrophysiological properties.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine