Spiral-wave turbulence and its control in the presence of inhomogeneities in four mathematical models of cardiac tissue

T K Shajahan, Alok Ranjan Nayak, Rahul Pandit
PloS One 2009, 4 (3): e4738
Regular electrical activation waves in cardiac tissue lead to the rhythmic contraction and expansion of the heart that ensures blood supply to the whole body. Irregularities in the propagation of these activation waves can result in cardiac arrhythmias, like ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF), which are major causes of death in the industrialised world. Indeed there is growing consensus that spiral or scroll waves of electrical activation in cardiac tissue are associated with VT, whereas, when these waves break to yield spiral- or scroll-wave turbulence, VT develops into life-threatening VF: in the absence of medical intervention, this makes the heart incapable of pumping blood and a patient dies in roughly two-and-a-half minutes after the initiation of VF. Thus studies of spiral- and scroll-wave dynamics in cardiac tissue pose important challenges for in vivo and in vitro experimental studies and for in silico numerical studies of mathematical models for cardiac tissue. A major goal here is to develop low-amplitude defibrillation schemes for the elimination of VT and VF, especially in the presence of inhomogeneities that occur commonly in cardiac tissue. We present a detailed and systematic study of spiral- and scroll-wave turbulence and spatiotemporal chaos in four mathematical models for cardiac tissue, namely, the Panfilov, Luo-Rudy phase 1 (LRI), reduced Priebe-Beuckelmann (RPB) models, and the model of ten Tusscher, Noble, Noble, and Panfilov (TNNP). In particular, we use extensive numerical simulations to elucidate the interaction of spiral and scroll waves in these models with conduction and ionic inhomogeneities; we also examine the suppression of spiral- and scroll-wave turbulence by low-amplitude control pulses. Our central qualitative result is that, in all these models, the dynamics of such spiral waves depends very sensitively on such inhomogeneities. We also study two types of control schemes that have been suggested for the control of spiral turbulence, via low amplitude current pulses, in such mathematical models for cardiac tissue; our investigations here are designed to examine the efficacy of such control schemes in the presence of inhomogeneities. We find that a local pulsing scheme does not suppress spiral turbulence in the presence of inhomogeneities; but a scheme that uses control pulses on a spatially extended mesh is more successful in the elimination of spiral turbulence. We discuss the theoretical and experimental implications of our study that have a direct bearing on defibrillation, the control of life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias such as ventricular fibrillation.

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