An improved in vivo method for atrioventricular node ablation via thoracotomy

Maciver, R. H.; Stewart, R. D.; Backer, C. L.; Tsao, S.; Harrington, D. A.; Mavroudis, C.

Braz J Med Biol Res. 2010 Jan 20; 43(2):206-10


The atrioventricular (AV) node is permanently damaged in approximately 3% of congenital heart surgery operations, requiring implantation of a permanent pacemaker. Improvements in pacemaker design and in alternative treatment modalities require an effective in vivo model of complete heart block (CHB) before testing can be performed in humans. Such a model should enable accurate, reliable, and detectable induction of the surgical pathology. Through our laboratory's efforts in developing a tissue engineering therapy for CHB, we describe here an improved in vivo model for inducing chronic AV block. The method employs a right thoracotomy in the adult rabbit, from which the right atrial appendage may be retracted to expose an access channel for the AV node. A novel injection device was designed, which both physically restricts needle depth and provides electrical information via electrocardiogram interface. This combination of features provides real-time guidance to the researcher for confirming contact with the AV node, and documents its ablation upon formalin injection. While all animals tested could be induced to acute AV block, those with ECG guidance were more likely to maintain chronic heart block >12 h. Our model enables the researcher to reproduce both CHB and the associated peripheral fibrosis that would be present in an open congenital heart surgery, and which would inevitably impact the design and utility of a tissue engineered AV node replacement.

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