A contemporary view of atrioventricular nodal physiology
Heart Conduction System
In delaying transmission of the cardiac impulse from the atria to the ventricles, the atrioventricular (AV) node serves a critical function in augmenting ventricular filling during diastole and limiting the ventricular response during atrial tachyarrhythmias. The complex structure of the nodal region, however, also provides the substrate for reentrant rhythms. Recent discoveries have elucidated the cellular basis and anatomical determinants of slow conduction in the node. Based on analysis of gap junction proteins, distinct structural components of the AV node have been defined, including the compact node, right and left inferior nodal extensions, the lower nodal bundle, and transitional tissue. Emerging evidence supports the role of the inferior nodal extensions in mediating slow pathway conduction. The most common form of reentry involving the node, slow-fast AV nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT), utilizes the inferior nodal extensions for anterograde slow pathway conduction; the structures responsible for retrograde fast pathway activation in the superior septum are less well defined and likely heterogeneous. Atypical forms of AVNRT arise from circuits that activate at least one of the inferior extensions in the retrograde direction.