Observations From Intraatrial Recordings on the Termination of Electrically Induced Atrial Fibrillation in Humans


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Background: The circulating wavelet hypothesis suggests that atrial fibrillation could terminate by either progressive fusion or simultaneous block of all wavelets. Methods: Intraatrial recordings from the right atrial free wall were made during procainamide induced (n = 8) or spontaneous (n = 7) termination of electrically induced atrial fibrillation in 14 patients. Atrial rate, mean magnitude squared coherence, and direction of activation during sequential electrograms were measured. Rate and coherence were calculated from the earliest point within 5 minutes prior to termination as well as from the 4‐second interval just prior to termination. Results: Termination was directly to sinus rhythm (13 episodes) or to atrial flutter (2 episodes). For the eight procainamide induced terminations, rate decreased between the first measurement and the measurement just prior to termination, from 443 ±127 beats/ min to 322 ± 119 beats/min. For the seven spontaneous terminations, rate also decreased from 373 ± 119 beats/min to 323 ± 88 beats/min; however, a slight increase in atrial rate prior to termination was observed in three episodes. No specific patterns of atrial cycle lengths were seen during the final few seconds of fibrillation. No increase in coherence was observed. In seven episodes, recordings were made using orthogonal bipoles in the x, y, and z directions, allowing direction of activation of wavefronts to be measured. Three episodes showed multiple instances where direction of activation remained similar over several electrograms as we have previously reported for chronic fibrillation. However, no such instances precipitated termination in any of the seven episodes. Conclusions: Atrial fibrillation usually terminates directly to sinus rhythm and does so abruptly and without forewarning. While we and others have previously reported that the rate of atrial fibrillation decreases with procainamide infusion, a decrease in the rate of atrial fibrillation is not required for the rhythm to terminate and consequently may not be a part of the termination process at all. Coherence does not demonstrate a progressive increase in the organization of atrial fibrillation prior to termination. Lack of stabilization in the direction of activation of wavefronts in the final few seconds also fails to support fusion of wavefronts as the mechanism of termination of atrial fibrillation. Simultaneous block of all wavelets is consistent with, but not proven by our observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1231-1242
Number of pages12
JournalPacing and Clinical Electrophysiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1994


  • coherence
  • mechanism of arrhythmia
  • procainamide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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