Aims: During atrial fibrillation (AF), conventional electrophysiological techniques for assessment of refractory period or conduction velocity of the atrioventricular (AV) node cannot be used. We aimed at evaluating changes in AV nodal properties during administration of metoprolol from electrocardiogram data, and to support our findings with simulated data based on results from an electrophysiological study.
Methods and results: Sixty patients (age 71 ± 9 years, 42 men) with permanent AF were included in the RATe control in Atrial Fibrillation (RATAF) study. Two 15 min segments, during baseline and metoprolol administration, starting at 2 pm were analysed in this study. Atrial fibrillatory rate (AFR), heart rate (HR), and AV nodal parameters were assessed. The AV nodal parameters account for the probability of an impulse not taking the fast pathway, the absolute refractory periods of the slow and fast pathways (aRPs and aRPf), representing the functional refractory period, and their respective prolongation in refractory period. In addition, simulated RR series were generated that mimic metoprolol administration through prolonged AV conduction interval and AV node effective refractory period. During metoprolol administration, AFR and HR were significantly decreased and aRP was significantly prolonged in both pathways (aRPs: 337 ± 60 vs. 398 ± 79 ms, P < 0.01; aRPf: 430 ± 91 vs. 517 ± 100 ms, P < 0.01). Similar results were found for the simulated RR series, both aRPs and aRPf being prolonged with metoprolol (aRPs: 413 ± 33 vs. 437 ± 43 ms, P = 0.01; aRPf: 465 ± 40 vs. 502 ± 69 ms, P = 0.02).
Conclusion: The AV nodal parameters reflect expected changes after metoprolol administration, i.e. a prolongation in functional refractory period. The simulations confirmed that aRPs and aRPf may serve as an estimate of the functional refractory period.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00313157.
Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Atrioventricular node; Beta-blocker; Functional refractory period; Metoprolol; Rate control; Refractory period; Ventricular rate.
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