Introduction: Atrial fibrillation is common in heart failure (HF). Understanding of the mechanisms of atrial fibrillation (AF) is limited by the paucity of large animal AF models, especially in the failing heart. We developed a large animal model of nonischemic heart failure (HF) in dogs by combined aortic insufficiency and aortic constriction and observed that a number of HF dogs developed paroxysmal AF on holter monitor. Here we characterize the spontaneously-occurring pAF in these HF dogs and perform electrophysiologic (EP) assessment of atrial refractoriness and AF inducibility along with echocardiographic imaging of left ventricle (LV) and left atrium (LA).
Methods: HF was induced in dogs by aortic insufficiency and aortic constriction, and serial echocardiography (for LV fractional shortening (FS) and LA size) and Holter monitoring was performed. In control and HF dogs, EP study of atrial refractory period (AERP) and AF inducibility (duration and atrial cycle length (CL)) was performed.
Results: By Holter monitoring, paroxysmal AF was noted in 5 dogs with episodes ranging from 15 to 94 beats long (mean of 49±27 beats, n=12). In EP studies, control dogs (N=3) exhibited AERP of 176±8 ms. Burst pacing resulted in AF of very brief duration (mean 32±24 sec) and a mean AF CL of 138±6 ms. LV FS averaged 37% and LA size averaged 4.3 cm2. HF dogs (N=5) exhibited RAERP of 150±8 (p=0.05 vs control). Two of these dogs had sustained AF with ventricular response up to 230 bpm on Holter monitor. In the other 3 HF dogs, burst pacing induced AF with a mean duration of 232±185 sec (at times with conversion to atrial flutter) and with a mean AF CL = 110±4 ms (p=0.002 vs control). Echo data showed LVFS averaged 30% and LA area of 14.9 cm2 (p=0.05 vs control).
Conclusion: Thus we have developed a novel large animal model of HF that exhibits paroxysmal and sustained AF. This model will provide an opportunity for the study of underlying AF mechanisms, the progression of remodeling in HF hearts leading to AF, and the assessment of human-scale interventions to better treat and prevent this arrhythmia.