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Mechanisms of ventricular arrhythmias: a dynamical systems-based perspective

DOI:  10.1152/ajpheart.00770.2011
  • Biology
  • Mathematics
  • Medicine


Defining the cellular electrophysiological mechanisms for ventricular tachyarrhythmias is difficult, given the wide array of potential mechanisms, ranging from abnormal automaticity to various types of reentry and kk activity. The degree of difficulty is increased further by the fact that any particular mechanism may be influenced by the evolving ionic and anatomic environments associated with many forms of heart disease. Consequently, static measures of a single electrophysiological characteristic are unlikely to be useful in establishing mechanisms. Rather, the dynamics of the electrophysiological triggers and substrates that predispose to arrhythmia development need to be considered. Moreover, the dynamics need to be considered in the context of a system, one that displays certain predictable behaviors, but also one that may contain seemingly stochastic elements. It also is essential to recognize that even the predictable behaviors of this complex nonlinear system are subject to small changes in the state of the system at any given time. Here we briefly review some of the short-, medium-, and long-term alterations of the electrophysiological substrate that accompany myocardial disease and their potential impact on the initiation and maintenance of ventricular arrhythmias. We also provide examples of cases in which small changes in the electrophysiological substrate can result in rather large differences in arrhythmia outcome. These results suggest that an interrogation of cardiac electrical dynamics is required to provide a meaningful assessment of the immediate risk for arrhythmia development and for evaluating the effects of putative antiarrhythmic interventions.

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