The surface electrocardiogram (ECG) has been used as a noninvasive technique for the diagnosis of cardiac allograft rejection. Alteration in conduction, R-wave amplitude, and rhythm have been associated with rejection. These ECG findings are modulated by the myocyte sodium channel, but are inconsistent and occur only during severe rejection episodes. The purpose of this study was to (I) characterize changes in cardiac electrophysiology during allograft rejection using the highly sensitive intramyocardial electrocardiogram and (2) determine whether pharmacological sodium channel blockade with procainamide enhances subtle ECG changes. Nine mongrel dogs underwent heterotopic heart transplantation in which four intramyocardial leads (one anteriorly and posteriorly on each ventricle) were attached. Leads exited to a subcutaneously placed ECG block which was transcutaneously accessed posttransplant to record direct intramyocardial electrocardiograms. Six animals were treated with procainamide. while three were not and served as controls. Daily measurements included the QRS, QT, and QTc intervals and the R-wave amplitude. Endomyocardial biopsies were performed weekly and also when significant decline in ECG amplitude occurred. Detailed ECG interval analysis failed to establish any correlation between conduction and rejection, even in the procainamide-treated group. Intramyocardial amplitude analysis, however, had a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 86% for the diagnosis of rejection. The results indicate that intramyocardial ECG interval analysis is not predictive of rejection even when prolonging conduction with procainamide. Amplitude analysis, however, remains an accurate noninvasive means for the early detection of cardiac allograft rejection and should allow more selective use of endomyocardial biopsy.
- Cardiac electrophysiology
- Noninvasive detection rejection