Myocardial fibrosis is considered a substrate for fatal ventricular arrhythmias (VAs). In rats receiving aldosterone/salt treatment (ALDOST) for ≥4 weeks, foci of myocardial scarring that replace necrotic cardiomyocytes appear scattered throughout the right and left sides of the heart. We hypothesized that this adverse structural remodeling would promote the inducibility of VA, which could be prevented by cotreatment with spironolactone (A+Spiro), an aldosterone receptor antagonist and cardioprotective agent. In controls and each treatment group, we monitored: (1) electrocardiogram, ventricular electrogram, and arterial pressure before, during, and after bipolar electrical stimulation of the right ventricular outflow tract and apex at a strength 3× the pacing threshold, using both programmed stimulation with premature extra stimuli and 50-Hz burst pacing for 3 different durations; and (2) myocardial collagen volume fraction (CVF) as a marker of cardiac fibrosis. We found that VA (duration >200 ms accompanied by declining arterial pressure) was more inducible (P < 0.05) at 4 weeks (4 of 6) and with even greater frequency at 6 weeks (9 of 10) of ALDOST versus controls (0 of 6) and A+Spiro for 6 weeks (2 of 11). CVF (%) was proportionally increased (P < 0.05) at 4 and 6 weeks (8.4 ± 0.74 and 13.9 ± 1.9, respectively) of ALDOST compared with control group (2.6 ± 0.4) and A+Spiro group (5.3 ± 0.7). However, the effective refractory period was indistinguishable between groups, whereas the probability of VA was nonlinearly related to CVF. Thus, in rats with aldosteronism, in which a reduction in effective refractory period was not evident, the mechanism for VA susceptibility is presumably linked to a decrease in conduction velocity and/or increased dispersion of refractoriness, probably caused by consequential myocardial fibrosis.
*Joint Graduate Program in Biomedical Engineering, The University of Memphis and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN
†Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN.
The authors report no conflict of interest.
Reprints: Karl T. Weber, MD, Division of Cardiovascular Diseases, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, 956 Court Ave, Suite A312, Memphis, TN 38163 (e-mail: email@example.com).
Received April 25, 2011
Accepted June 21, 2011