Cardiac defibrillation is usually achieved using a single high-energy electric shock of up to 4,000 volts, which can be damaging to the heart tissue. Eberhard Bodenschatz and colleagues show how the disordered electrical dynamics that underlie cardiac fibrillation can be controlled using low-energy electrical pulses. They show, in tests on dogs, that intrinsic homogeneities in the cardiac tissue (such as the vasculature) serve as nucleation sites for the generation of waves of electrical activity that can target the instabilities and bring the tissue dynamics back into synchrony. The new technique, called low-energy antifibrillation pacing or LEAP, delivers five sequential low-energy electrical field pulses to the fibrillating heart — an average energy reduction of 84% compared to standard defibrillation.
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