Journal of Theoretical Medicine
Volume 4 (2002), Issue 3, Pages 167-181

Numerical Simulations of Fractionated Electrograms and Pathological Cardiac Action Potential

Dipartimento di Studi Economici e Quantitativi, Università di Parma, Via J.F. Kennedy, 6-43100 Parma, Italy

Received 21 March 2001; Accepted 11 June 2002

Copyright © 2002 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The aim of this work is twofold. First we focus on the complex phenomenon of electrogram fractionation, due to the presence of discontinuities in the conduction properties of the cardiac tissue in a bidomain model. Numerical simulations of paced activation may help to understand the role of the membrane ionic currents and of the changes in cellular coupling in the formation of conduction blocks and fractionation of the electrogram waveform. In particular, we show that fractionation is independent of INA alterations and that it can be described by the bidomain model of cardiac tissue. Moreover, some deflections in fractionated electrograms may give nonlocal information about the shape of damaged areas, also revealing the presence of inhomogeneities in the intracellular conductivity of the medium at a distance.

The second point of interest is the analysis of the effects of space–time discretization on numerical results, especially during slow conduction in damaged cardiac tissue. Indeed, large discretization steps can induce numerical artifacts such as slowing down of conduction velocity, alteration in extracellular and transmembrane potential waveforms or conduction blocks, which are not predicted by the continuous bidomain model. Several possible numerical and physiological explanations of these effects are given. Essentially, the discrete system obtained at the end of the approximation process may be interpreted as a discrete model of the cardiac tissue made up of isopotential cells where the effective intracellular conductivity tensor depends on the space discretization steps; the increase of these steps results in an increase of the effective intracellular resistance and can induce conduction blocks if a certain critical value is exceeded.