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Background-: Right ventricular failure (RVF) in pulmonary hypertension (PH) is associated with increased incidence of sudden death by a poorly explored mechanism. We test the hypothesis that PH promotes spontaneous ventricular fibrillation (VF) during a critical post-PH onset period characterized by a sudden increase in mortality.

Methods and Results-: Rats received either a single subcutaneous dose of monocrotaline (MCT, 60 mg/kg) to induce PH-associated RVF (PH, n=24) or saline (control, n=17). Activation pattern of the RV-epicardial surface was mapped using voltage-sensitive dye in isolated Langendorff-perfused hearts along with single glass-microelectrode and ECG-recordings. MCT-injected rats developed severe PH by day 21 and progressed to RVF by approximately day 30. Rats manifested increased mortality, and [almost equal to]30% rats died suddenly and precipitously during 23-32 days after MCT. This fatal period was associated with the initiation of spontaneous VF by a focal mechanism in the RV, which was subsequently maintained by both focal and incomplete reentrant wave fronts. Microelectrode recordings from the RV-epicardium at the onset of focal activity showed early afterdepolarization-mediated triggered activity that led to VF. The onset of the RV cellular triggered beats preceded left ventricular depolarizations by 23 /-8 ms. The RV but not the left ventricular cardiomyocytes isolated during this fatal period manifested significant action potential duration prolongation, dispersion, and an increased susceptibility to depolarization-induced repetitive activity. No spontaneous VF was observed in any of the control hearts. RVF was associated with significantly reduced RV ejection fraction (P<0.001), RV hypertrophy (P<0.001), and RV fibrosis (P<0.01). The hemodynamic function of the LV and its structure were preserved.

Conclusions-: PH-induced RVF is associated with a distinct phase of increased mortality characterized by spontaneous VF arising from the RV by an early afterdepolarization-mediated triggered activity.

(C) 2012 American Heart Association, Inc.