Atrial defibrillation using temporary epicardial defibrillation stainless steel wire electrodes: Studies in the canine sterile pericarditis model

José Ortiz, Mary C. Sokoloski, Gregory M. Ayers, Brian L. Cmolik, Shinichi Niwano, Alexander S. Geha, Albert L. Waldo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives.: This study sought to determine whether temporary epicardial wire electrodes can be used safely and effectively to defibrillate the atria with low energy shocks in the absence of anesthesia. Background.: Atrial fibrillation after open heart surgery is a significant clinical problem. Methods.: Twelve dogs with sterile pericarditis were studied. In the first group (6 dogs, bilateral thoracotomy group), a wire electrode, insulated except for the distal 6 cm, was placed on the epicardial free wall of each atrium. Each end of the bare wire was then sutured to the parietal pericardium. In the second group (6 dogs, median sternotomy group), the wire electrodes were kept in place by a double loop of Prolene placed around the distal tip of the bare wire and sewn to the overlying parietal pericardium. In the bilateral thoracotomy group, atrial defibrillation thresholds (defined as <90% and > 10% successful defibrillation of 20 shocks at a given delivered energy) were obtained in anesthetized dogs using the wire electrodes with the chest closed and open and using two transvenously placed catheters with coil electrodes in the distal 6 cm (one in the coronary sinus and the other in the right atrial appendage) with the chest open. In the median sternotomy group, thresholds were obtained in minimally sedated animals without reopening the chest. A 25% increase above threshold shock was also used to determine a new percent success. After 4 days, the wire electrodes were removed by pulling on the external ends. At the time of removal, blood pressure and heart rate were monitored for 30 min, after which dogs were killed and their hearts sent for histopathologic study. For all dogs, chest radiographs were obtained postoperatively and on study days. Results.: Atrial defibrillation using the wire electrodes was successful in all dogs at a mean (±SE) voltage of 112 ± 9 V, with an energy level of 0.46 ± 0.07 J and an impedance of 59.3 ± 5 ohms. The mean percent success at the atrial defibrillation threshold was 36 ± 5%. The 25% increase in defibrillation voltage improved the mean percent success to 73% (mean energy 0.66 ± 0.19 J). No clinical or hemodynamic complications were observed during shock delivery, and no ventricular arrhythmias were induced during the shocks. No complications followed wire electrode removal. Histopathologic analysis showed no structural damage. Conclusions.: The atrial defibrillation threshold obtained using temporary epicardial wire electrodes for atrial defibrillation is < 1 J in dogs. Atrial defibrillation using temporary epicardial wire electrodes can be performed safely, quickly and reliably without the need for anesthesia or antiarrhythmic agents. The wire electrodes can be removed without adverse hemodynamic or structural consequences. These data provide a basis for testing atrial defibrillation using epicardial wire electrodes in patients after open heart surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1356-1364
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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