Spiral-wave dynamics depend sensitively on inhomogeneities in mathematical models of ventricular tissue

T K Shajahan, Sitabhra Sinha, Rahul Pandit
Physical Review. E, Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics 2007, 75 (1): 011929
Every sixth death in industrialized countries occurs because of cardiac arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF). There is growing consensus that VT is associated with an unbroken spiral wave of electrical activation on cardiac tissue but VF with broken waves, spiral turbulence, spatiotemporal chaos and rapid, irregular activation. Thus spiral-wave activity in cardiac tissue has been studied extensively. Nevertheless, many aspects of such spiral dynamics remain elusive because of the intrinsically high-dimensional nature of the cardiac-dynamical system. In particular, the role of tissue heterogeneities in the stability of cardiac spiral waves is still being investigated. Experiments with conduction inhomogeneities in cardiac tissue yield a variety of results: some suggest that conduction inhomogeneities can eliminate VF partially or completely, leading to VT or quiescence, but others show that VF is unaffected by obstacles. We propose theoretically that this variety of results is a natural manifestation of a complex, fractal-like boundary that must separate the basins of the attractors associated, respectively, with spiral breakup and single spiral wave. We substantiate this with extensive numerical studies of Panfilov and Luo-Rudy I models, where we show that the suppression of spiral breakup depends sensitively on the position, size, and nature of the inhomogeneity.

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