Sodium channel blockade enhances dispersion of the cardiac action potential duration. A computer simulation study

Basic Res Cardiol. Jan-Feb 1993;88(1):11-22. doi: 10.1007/BF00788526.


The goal of this study was to elucidate the causes why the proarrhythmic activity of sodium channel blocking drugs is enhanced during the post-infarction period. Therefore, we studied the effects of a reduction in sodium conductance on the action potential duration and its dispersion in a simulated array of 1600 ventricular myocytes. Cardiac tissue is known to possess anisotropic properties with regard to the intercellular electrical resistances (R). Infarction as well as aging causes deposition of collagen in the cardiac tissue, thereby inducing zones of high electrical resistance leading to a non-uniform anisotropy (Spach et al., Circ Res 62:811, 1988). For our study an array of 40*40 ventricular myocytes was simulated using Beeler-Reuter-algorithms. Physical tissue properties were assumed to be either a) uniform anisotropic (i.e., all longitudinal R = 5000 omega cm, all transversal R = 20,000 omega cm; UA) or b) non-uniform anisotropic (i.e., transversal R for the inner 10*10 cells was set to 10(10) omega cm; NUA). Mean action potential duration (APD) was increased under UA (287 ms. dispersion: 0.8 ms) when compared to NUA (285 ms, disp.: 3.2 ms). Assuming a 25% decrease in sodium conductance, we found the total activation time (TAT) to be increased (from 99 to 139 ms), indicating slowing of conduction, APD to be shortened (from 287 to 259 ms), and the APD-dispersion to be increased (from 0.8 to 29 ms) in UA. These changes were more pronounced in the case of NUA: increase in TAT from 103 to 150 ms, APD-shortening from 285 to 214 ms and a marked increase in APD-Dispersion from 3.2 to 53 ms). From these results it is concluded that a) the effects of a reduced sodium conductance are more pronounced in NUA tissue, and b) that the resulting increase in dispersion may provoke arrhythmia by local differences in APD. This may be one of the mechanisms underlying the increased proarrhythmic risk of class I antiarrhythmic drugs in the postinfarction period.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Electric Conductivity
  • Heart / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Reaction Time
  • Sodium / physiology
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism*


  • Sodium Channels
  • Sodium