Ventricular fibrillation is a common life-threatening arrhythmia. The ECG of VF appears chaotic but may allow identification of sustaining mechanisms to guide therapy.
We hypothesized that rotors and focal sources manifest distinct features on the ECG, and computational modeling may identify mechanisms of such features.
VF induction was attempted in 31 patients referred for ventricular arrhythmia ablation. Simultaneous surface ECG and intracardiac electrograms were recorded using biventricular basket catheters. Endocardial phase maps were used to mechanistically classify each VF cycle as rotor or focally driven. ECGs were analyzed from patients demonstrating both mechanisms in the primary analysis and from all patients with induced VF in the secondary analysis. The ECG voltage variation during each mechanism was compared. Biventricular computer simulations of VF driven by focal sources or rotors were created and resulting ECGs of each VF mechanism were compared.
Rotor-based VF exhibited greater voltage variation than focal source-based VF in both the primary analysis (n = 8, 110 ± 24% vs. 55 ± 32%, P = 0.02) and the secondary analysis (n = 18, 103 ± 30% vs. 67 ± 34%, P = 0.009). Computational VF simulations also revealed greater voltage variation in rotors compared to focal sources (110 ± 19% vs. 33 ± 16%, P = 0.001), and demonstrated that this variation was due to wavebreak, secondary rotor initiation, and rotor meander.
Clinical and computational studies reveal that quantitative criteria of ECG voltage variation differ significantly between VF-sustaining rotors and focal sources, and provide insight into the mechanisms of such variation. Future studies should prospectively evaluate if these criteria can separate clinical VF mechanisms and guide therapy.