Current concepts of ventricular defibrillation

Peng Sheng Chen, Charles D. Swerdlow, Chun Hwang, Hrayr S. Karagueuzian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


The aim of this article is to review the current concepts of ventricular defibrillation. We studied the interaction between strong electrical stimulus and cardiac responses in both animal models and in humans. We found that a premature stimulus (S2) of appropriate strength results in figure-eight reentry in vitro by inducing propagated graded responses. The same stimulation protocol induces figure-eight reentry and ventricular fibrillation (VF) in vivo. When the S2 strength and the magnitude of graded responses increase beyond a critical level, the increase in refractoriness at the site of the stimulus becomes so long that the unidirectional block becomes bidirectional block, preventing the formation of reentry (upper limit of vulnerability [ULV]). In other studies, we found that the effects of an electrical stimulation on reentry is in part determined by the liming of the stimulus. A protective zone is present after the induction of VF and after an unsuccessful defibrillation shock during which an electrical stimulus can terminate reentry and protect the heart from VF. These results indicate that the effects of a defibrillation shock is dependent on both the strength and the timing of the shock. Timing is not important in areas where the shock field strength is ≤ ULV because the shock terminates all reentry but cannot reinitiate new ones. However, in areas where shock field strength is < ULV, the effects of the shock are determined by the timing of the shock relative to local VF activations. This ULV hypothesis of defibrillation explains the probablistic nature of ventricular defibrillation. It also indicates that, to achieve a high probability of successful defibrillation, a shock must result in a shock field strength of ≤ ULV throughout the ventricles.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)553-562
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of cardiovascular electrophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1998


  • Graded responses
  • Probability function
  • Protective zone
  • Reentry
  • Upper limit of vulnerability
  • Ventrlcular fibrillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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