A new mechanism for atrioventricular nodal gap-vagal modulation of conduction.
The well-known paradoxic behavior of atrioventricular conduction, the so-called gap phenomenon, that occurs when impulses within a certain range of coupling intervals are blocked while impulses with shorter coupling intervals are conducted is attributed to differences in properties of refractoriness in neighboring regions of the conduction system. In contrast, in the present study a model was developed showing a similar phenomenon, dependent on different electrophysiologic mechanisms and localized within the atrioventricular node in an isolated rabbit heart tissue preparation (n = 11). The hearts were paced at cycle length of 400-500 msec, and atrioventricular nodal conduction times (A2H2) were measured versus atrial extrastimulus (A1A2) coupling intervals by standard extrastimulus techniques. Postganglionic vagal stimulation was applied in the atrioventricular node as short bursts of subthreshold (for myocardium) stimuli with duration of 50-150 msec, amplitude of 20-800 microA, and absolute phase (delay after A1) of 0-500 msec. Vagal bursts with appropriate parameters consistently produced bimodal conduction curves. Initially, gradual shortening of the A1A2 coupling interval was associated with an increasing A2H2, with an accentuated increase (or even atrioventricular block) within an intermediate A1A2 range. However, further shortening of the A1A2 coupling interval produced a decrease in A2H2, which subsequently was followed by a block at the effective refractory period. Microelectrode recordings indicated that this characteristic bimodal pattern of conduction curves, demonstrating a gap, reflected transient vagally induced hyperpolarization in the N region of the node. In those instances where conduction block occurred and gap was manifest, the most marked hyperpolarization coincided with the time of arrival of midcycle premature extrastimuli, whereas the conduction of extrastimuli with either more or less prematurity was under less-marked vagal influence. Thus, this study demonstrates a new electrophysiologic mechanism producing anomalous conduction curves and the gap phenomenon within the atrioventricular node based on vagal-induced nonuniform recovery of diastolic excitability.
- Copyright © 1989 by American Heart Association