Background—Prolonged and fractionated right atrial endocardial electrograms are characteristic of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (idiopathic or associated with sick sinus syndrome). The distribution of these abnormal atrial electrograms within the right atrium and the way it is related to the likelihood that patients with sick sinus syndrome will develop paroxysmal atrial fibrillation was studied.
Methods—Endocardial catheter mapping of the right atrium during sinus rhythm was performed in 41 control patients with normal sinus node function and without paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, in 33 patients with sick sinus syndrome but without tachycardia, and in 27 patients with sick sinus syndrome and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (group 3). The bipolar electrograms were recorded at 12 sites in the right atrium and an abnormal atrial electrogram was defined as lasting ≥100 ms and/or showing eight or more fragmented deflections.
Results—1195 atrial endocardial electrograms were assessed and quantitatively measured. In patients with sick sinus syndrome and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation 54% of the abnormal atrial electrograms were recorded from the high right atrium, 28% from the mid right atrium, and 18% from the low right atrium. However, in patients with sick sinus syndrome without tachycardia 78% of the abnormal atrial electrograms were recorded from the high right atrium and 22% from the mid right atrium. No abnormal electrograms were recorded from the low right atrium.
Conclusions—In patients with sick sinus syndrome without tachycardia abnormal atrial electrograms generally came from the high right atrium but in patients with sick sinus syndrome and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation abnormal atrial electrograms were more widely distributed in the right atrium. In patients with sick sinus syndrome the greater the extent of the compromised atrial muscle, the greater the likelihood that paroxysmal atrial fibrillation will develop.
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