Reversal of atrial mechanical stunning after cardioversion of atrial arrhythmias: Implications for the mechanisms of tachycardia-mediated atrial cardiomyopathy

Prashanthan Sanders, Joseph B. Morton, John G. Morgan, Neil C. Davidson, Steven J. Spence, Jitendra K. Vohra, Jonathan M. Kalman, Paul B. Sparks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Background - Atrial mechanical stunning develops on termination of chronic atrial arrhythmias and is implicated in the genesis of thromboembolic complications after cardioversion. The mechanisms responsible for atrial mechanical stunning are unknown. The effects of atrial rate, isoproterenol, and calcium on atrial mechanical function in patients with atrial stunning have not been evaluated, and it is not known if atrial stunning can be reversed. Methods and Results - Thirty-five patients with chronic atrial flutter (AFL) undergoing radiofrequency ablation were studied. Fifteen patients in sinus rhythm undergoing ablation for paroxysmal AFL were studied as control for effects of the procedure. Left atrial appendage emptying velocities (LAAEVs) and spontaneous echocardiographic contrast (LASEC) were assessed by transesophageal echocardiography during AFL, after reversion to sinus rhythm, during atrial pacing at cycle lengths of 750 to 250 ms, after a postpacing pause, and with isoproterenol or calcium. With termination of AFL, LAAEV decreased from 59.0±3.7 cm/s to 18.8±1.4 cm/s (P<0.0001) and LASEC grade increased from 0.9±0.1 to 2.2±0.2 (P<0.0001). Pacing increased LAAEV to a maximum of 38.4±3.2 cm/s (P<0.0001) and reduced LASEC grade to 1.9±0.2 (P=0.005). Isoproterenol and calcium reversed atrial mechanical stunning with LAAEV increasing to 89.3±12.6 cm/s (P=0.0007) and 50.2±10.5 cm/s (P=0.005), respectively, and LASEC grade decreasing to 0.2±0.1 (P=0.001) and 1.4±0.2 (P=0.01), respectively. The postpacing pause increased LAAEV to 69.3±3.7 cm/s (P<0.0001). No change in LAAEV was observed in the paroxysmal AFL group. Conclusion - Atrial mechanical stunning can be reversed by pacing at increased rates and through the administration of isoproterenol or calcium. These findings suggest a functional contractile apparatus in the mechanically remodeled atrium as a result of chronic atrial flutter.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1806-1813
Number of pages8
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Oct 2002


  • Atrial flutter
  • Cardioversion
  • Echocardiography
  • Remodeling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

Cite this