Low-energy defibrillation with nanosecond electric shocks

Frency Varghese, Johanna U. Neuber, Fei Xie, Jonathan M. Philpott, Andrei G. Pakhomov, Christian W. Zemlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Aims Reliable defibrillation with reduced energy deposition has long been the focus of defibrillation research. We studied the efficacy of single shocks of 300 ns duration in defibrillating rabbit hearts as well as the tissue damage they may cause. Methods and results New Zealand white rabbit hearts were Langendorff-perfused and two planar electrodes were placed on either side of the heart. Shocks of 300 ns duration and 0.3-3 kV amplitude were generated with a transmission line generator. Single nanosecond shocks consistently induced waves of electrical activation, with a stimulation threshold of 0.9 kV (over 3 cm) and consistent activation for shock amplitudes of 1.2 kV or higher (9/9 successful attempts). We induced fibrillation (35 episodes in 12 hearts) and found that single shock nanosecond-defibrillation could consistently be achieved, with a defibrillation threshold of 2.3-2.4 kV (over 3 cm), and consistent success at 3 kV (11/11 successful attempts). Shocks uniformly depolarized the tissue, and the threshold energy needed for nanosecond defibrillation was almost an order of magnitude lower than the energy needed for defibrillation with a monophasic 10 ms shock delivered with the same electrode configuration. For the parameters studied here, nanosecond defibrillation caused no baseline shift of the transmembrane potential (that could be indicative of electroporative damage), no changes in action potential duration, and only a brief change of diastolic interval, for one beat after the shock was delivered. Histological staining with tetrazolium chloride and propidium iodide showed that effective defibrillation was not associated with tissue death or with detectable electroporation anywhere in the heart (six hearts). Conclusion Nanosecond-defibrillation is a promising technology that may allow clinical defibrillation with profoundly reduced energies. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1789-1797
Number of pages9
JournalCardiovascular Research
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Defibrillation
  • Low-energy
  • Millisecond shocks
  • Nanosecond shocks
  • Stimulation


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