Subepicardial Cardiomyopathy: A Disease Underlying J-Wave Syndromes and Idiopathic Ventricular Fibrillation

Circulation. 2023 May 23;147(21):1622-1633. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.122.061924. Epub 2023 May 22.


Brugada syndrome (BrS), early repolarization syndrome (ERS), and idiopathic ventricular fibrillation (iVF) have long been considered primary electrical disorders associated with malignant ventricular arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death. However, recent studies have revealed the presence of subtle microstructural abnormalities of the extracellular matrix in some cases of BrS, ERS, and iVF, particularly within right ventricular subepicardial myocardium. Substrate-based ablation within this region has been shown to ameliorate the electrocardiographic phenotype and to reduce arrhythmia frequency in BrS. Patients with ERS and iVF may also exhibit low-voltage and fractionated electrograms in the ventricular subepicardial myocardium, which can be treated with ablation. A significant proportion of patients with BrS and ERS, as well as some iVF survivors, harbor pathogenic variants in the voltage-gated sodium channel gene, SCN5A, but the majority of genetic susceptibility of these disorders is likely to be polygenic. Here, we postulate that BrS, ERS, and iVF may form part of a spectrum of subtle subepicardial cardiomyopathy. We propose that impaired sodium current, along with genetic and environmental susceptibility, precipitates a reduction in epicardial conduction reserve, facilitating current-to-load mismatch at sites of structural discontinuity, giving rise to electrocardiographic changes and the arrhythmogenic substrate.

Keywords: Brugada syndrome; arrhythmogenic cardiomyopathies; ventricular fibrillation.

MeSH terms

  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac
  • Brugada Syndrome* / complications
  • Brugada Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Brugada Syndrome* / genetics
  • Cardiomyopathies* / diagnosis
  • Cardiomyopathies* / genetics
  • Electrocardiography
  • Humans
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / etiology
  • Ventricular Fibrillation / genetics

Supplementary concepts

  • Paroxysmal ventricular fibrillation