Heart and Circulatory Physiology

Improved cardiac cell excitation with symmetrical biphasic defibrillator waveforms

J. L. Jones, R. E. Jones, G. Balasky


According to the most commonly accepted hypothesis, ventricular defibrillation is produced by exciting cells in a critical mass of the ventricle. For monophasic defibrillator waveforms, this hypothesis correctly predicts a direct correlation between defibrillation threshold in the transthoracic calf model and excitation threshold for extracellular field stimulation in the cultured cell model. To further test the hypothesis, we determined whether symmetrical biphasic waveforms, which reduce defibrillation threshold in the calf to approximately 65% of that of the corresponding monophasic waveform (14), decrease excitation threshold in the cultured cell model. Experiments were performed on 100- to 250-microns aggregates from 10- to 12-day-old chick embryos. Excitation threshold strength-duration curves obtained at extracellular potassium (Ko) = 6.5 mM and pacing interval of 1,000 ms showed a significant reduction for symmetrical biphasic rectangular waveforms, when compared with the corresponding monophasic waveforms for durations greater than 3 ms. At the rheobase, the threshold ratio between the biphasic and monophasic waveforms was 0.63 (SE = 0.02). Transmembrane potentials during stimulation showed that excitation takes place during the second portion of the biphasic waveform for intensities that are subthreshold for the monophasic waveform. The relative effectiveness of the biphasic waveform (5-ms duration) increases under "fibrillation conditions" of short pacing interval (300 ms) and high extracellular potassium (10.5 mM). These results show that symmetrical biphasic waveforms decrease excitation threshold in the cultured cell model and that the degree of threshold reduction is dependent on Ko and beat rate.