Abstract In this work we investigate, by means of numerical simulations, the performance of two mathematical models describing the spread of excitation in a three-dimensional block representing anisotropic cardiac tissue. The first model is characterized by a reaction-diffusion system in the transmembrane and extracellular potentials v and u. The second model is derived from the first by means of a perturbation technique. It is characterized by an eikonal equation, nonlinear and elliptic in the activation time ψ( x). The level surfaces ψ( x ) = t represent the wave-front positions. The numerical procedures based on the two models were applied to test functions and to excitation processes elicited by local stimulations in a relatively small block. The results are in excellent agreement, and for the same problem the computation time required by the eikonal equation is a small fraction of that needed for the reaction-diffusion system. Thus we have strong evidence that the eikonal equation provides a reliable and numerically efficient model of the excitation process. Moreover, numerical simulations have been performed to validate an approximate model for the extracellular potential based on knowledge of the excitation sequence. The features of the extracellular potential distribution affected by the anisotropic conductivity of the medium were investigated.