• atrial fibrillation;
  • atrioventricular node;
  • heart failure;
  • rate control;
  • vagus nerve

Therapeutic Effects of Selective AVN-VS in AF and HF. Introduction: Atrial fibrillation (AF) and heart failure (HF) frequently coexist. We have previously demonstrated that selective atrioventricular node (AVN) vagal stimulation (AVN-VS) can be used to control ventricular rate during AF. Due to withdrawal of vagal activity in HF, the therapeutic effects of AVN-VS may be compromised in the combined condition of AF and HF. Accordingly, this study was designed to evaluate the therapeutic effects of AVN-VS to control ventricular rate in AF and HF.

Methods and Results: A combined model of AF and HF was created by implanting a dual chamber pacemaker in 24 dogs. A newly designed bipolar electrode was inserted into the ganglionic AVN fat pad and connected to a nerve stimulator for delivering AVN-VS. In all dogs, HF was induced by high rate ventricular pacing at 220 bpm for 4 weeks. AF was then induced and maintained by rapid atrial pacing at 600 bpm after discontinuation of ventricular pacing. These HF + AF dogs were randomized into control (n = 9) and AVN-VS (n = 15) groups. In the latter group, vagal stimulation (310 μs, 20 Hz, 3–7 mA) was delivered continuously for 6 months. Compared with the control, AVN-VS had a consistent effect on ventricular rate slowing (by >50 bpm, all P < 0.001) during the entire 6-month observation period that was associated with left ventricular functional improvement. Moreover, AVN-VS was well tolerated by the treated animals.

Conclusions: AVN-VS achieved consistent rate slowing, which was associated with improved ventricular function in a canine AF and HF model. Thus, AVN-VS may be a novel, effective therapeutic option in the combined condition of AF and HF. (J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol, Vol. 24, pp. 86-91, January 2013)