Conduction characteristics at the crista terminalis during onset of pulmonary vein atrial fibrillation.J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol. 2004 Aug; 15(8):855-61.JC
Focal atrial fibrillation (AF) may initiate with an irregular rapid burst of atrial ectopic (AE) activity from a pulmonary vein (PV) focus, but how AF is maintained it is not known. The crista terminalis (CT) is an important line of block in atrial flutter (AFL), but its role in AF has not been determined. The aim of this study was to examine the conduction properties of the CT during onset of AF.
METHODS AND RESULTS
In 10 patients (mean age 38 +/- 8 years), we analyzed conduction across the CT during onset of focal AF from an arrhythmogenic PV and during pacing from the same PV at cycle lengths of 700 and 300 ms. A 20-pole catheter was positioned on the CT using intracardiac echocardiography. In 10 control patients with no history of AF, we analyzed conduction across the CT during pacing from the distal coronary sinus at 700 and 300 ms. In all 10 AF patients, AF was initiated with 1 to 9 AE beats (median 5) from a PV. During sinus rhythm, there were no split components (SC) recorded on the CT. During PV AE activity, discrete SC were recorded on the CT in all patients over 6.3 +/- 0.9 bipoles (3.7 +/- 0.3 cm). Maximal splitting of SC was 66 +/- 31 ms (37-139). There was an inverse relationship between AE coupling intervals and the degree of splitting between SC in all patients. Degeneration to AF was preceded by progressive decrement across the CT. SC were recorded during PV pacing at 700 and 300 ms (maximal distance between SC of 24 +/- 3 ms and 43 +/- 5 ms, respectively, P < 0.001). Maximum SC at CT in controls was 13 +/- 8 ms at 700 ms (P = 0.06 vs AF patients) and 16 +/- 9 ms at 300 ms (P < 0.01 vs AF patients).
(1) These observations provide evidence of anisotropic, decremental conduction across the CT during onset of focal AF and during pacing from the same PV. A line of functional conduction block develops along this anatomic structure (CT). Whether this line of block acts as an initiator of AF or simply contributes passively to nonuniform fibrillatory conduction is unknown. (2) In some patients with focal AF, development of conduction block along the CT may provide a substrate for typical AFL.