The electrophysiologic effects of atropine were studied in 14 patients with dual atrioventricular (AV) nodal pathways and recurrent paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT). During PSVT, all patients used a slow pathway (SP) for antegrade and fast pathway (FP) for retrograde conduction. Atropine enhanced both SP antegrade and FP retrograde conduction, shown by a decrease in paced cycle lengths (atrial and ventricular) producing AV and ventriculoatrial block.
Five patients had induction of sustained PSVT before and after atropine. Seven patients failed to induce or sustain PSVT before atropine, because of retrograde FP refractoriness. All seven had induction of sustained PSVT after atropine due to facilitation of FP retrograde conduction. Two patients had only single atrial echoes before atropine, reflecting SP antegrade refractoriness. After atropine, sustained PSVT was inducible in one, and nonsustained in the other. PSVT cycle length could be compared in seven patients before and after atropine and decreased from 383 + 25 to 336 ± 17 (p>0.05).
Thus, in patients with dual AV nodal pathways, atropine facilitated SP antegrade and FP retrograde conduction, shortened cycle length of PSVT and potentiated ability to sustain PSVT.