The effects of alternating cycle lengths (bigeminal rhythm) on His-Purkinje system refractoriness were studied in 14 patients using His bundle and right bundle recordings. Programmed atrial stimulation at constant cycle length (method I) was scanned using the atrial extrastimulus technique (A2) and compared with an atrial cycle length of identical duration coupled to A2 on alternate beats (method II). The results showed that (a) despite shorter cycle length of the His-Purkinje system with method II due to effect of A2 on atrioventricular nodal conduction (699 +/- 90 vs. 743 +/- 87 ms, P less than 0.001), the relative refractory period of the His-Purkinje system was always longer with method II (463 +/- 52 vs. 440 +/- 43 ms, P less than 0.001). A similar increase also occurred in effective refractory period of the His-Purkinje system; (b) while functional right bundle branch block occurred in eight patients and functional left bundle branch block in two patients with method I, functional right bundle branch block occurred in all 14 patients and left bundle branch block in seven patients with method II; (c) in two patients where both functional right and left bundle branch block occurred with method I this never was manifest at identical degree of abbreviation of His-Purkinje system cycle length but was manifest at identical abbreviation in each of seven patients with method II; (d) site of conduction delay and/or block during functional right bundle branch block was always proximal, i.e., between the His bundle and right bundle recordings with both methods. During method II this resulted in shortening of the subsequent right bundle cycle length relative to the subsequent His bundle (and of necessity left bundle) cycle length. The finding of increased His-Purkinje system refractoriness despite shorter preceding cycle length of the His-Purkinje system during atrial bigeminy has never been previously described and suggests that classical concepts of His-Purkinje system behavior may require revision in this setting. Secondly, during atrial bigeminy the occurrence of alternating functional bundle branch block cannot be accounted for solely by the degree of abbreviation of His-Purkinje system cycle length, but may be explained by a relative shortening of the next ipsilateral bundle branch cycle length in the bundle manifesting block.
S Denker, M Lehmann, R Mahmud, C Gilbert, M Akhtar