Effect of capacitor size and pathway resistance on defibrillation threshold for implantable defibrillators

Charles D. Swerdlow, Robert M. Kass, Peng Sheng Chen, Chun Hwang, Sharo Raissi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Background: The time constant of truncated exponential pulses used with implantable defibrillators is determined by the output capacitor size and defibrillation pathway resistance. The optimal capacitor size is unknown. Methods and Results: This study compared defibrillation threshold (DFT) for standard 120-μF capacitors (DFT120) and smaller 60-μF capacitors (DFT60) at implantation of cardioverter-defibrillators in 67 patients using epicardial electrodes (15 patients) or one of four transvenous electrode configurations (52 patients). Paired comparisons of DFT60 and DFT120 were made for 44 defibrillation pathways using monophasic pulses and for 53 pathways using biphasic pulses. Truncated exponential pulses with 65% tilt were used. Pooled data from all electrode configurations showed a significant inverse correlation between pathway resistance and the ratio of stored energy DFT60 to DFT120 (monophasic pulses: r=.75, P=.0001; biphasic pulses: r=.68, P=.0001). Data from all electrode configurations formed a continuum with 120- μF capacitors superior for low-resistance pathways and 60-μF capacitors superior for high-resistance pathways. For pathways with resistance ≤40 Ω, the modest advantage of 120-μF capacitors applied primarily to pathways with low DFTs: 8.2±6.1 versus 9.6±5.4 J (P=.001) for monophasic pulses and 4.1±2.8 versus 5.1±3.1 J (P<.02) for biphasic pulses. The greater advantage of 60-μF capacitors for pathways with resistance ≥61 Ω applied to pathways with higher DFTs: 12.4±4.3 versus 23.1±6.4 J (P=.0001) for monophasic pulses and 8.5±4.9 versus 12.5±6.4 J (P=.0001) for biphasic pulses. For pathways with resistance ≥61 Ω, the DFT was ≤15 J for 19% of pathways using monophasic 120-μF pulses versus 95% for 60-μF pulses. Similarly, the DFT was ≤10 J for 48% of pathways using biphasic 120-μF capacitors versus 83% for 60-μF pulses. Conclusions: In comparison with conventional 120-μF capacitors, 60-μF capacitors had clinically insignificant higher DFTs for low-resistance pathways and clinically important lower DFTs for high- resistance pathways. Optimal capacitance is inversely related to pathway resistance for clinical defibrillation pathways and waveforms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1840-1846
Number of pages7
Issue number4 I
StatePublished - Oct 1994


  • defibrillation
  • defibrillator, implantable

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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