Initiation of cardiac arrhythmias typically follows one or more premature impulses either occurring spontaneously or applied externally. In this study, we characterize the dynamics of propagation of single (S2) and double premature impulses (S3), and the mechanisms of block of premature impulses at structural heterogeneities caused by remodeling of gap junctional conductance (Gj) in infarcted myocardium. Using a sub-cellular computer model of infarcted tissue, we found that |INa,max|, prematurity (coupling interval with the previous impulse), and conduction velocity (CV) of premature impulses change dynamically as they propagate away from the site of initiation. There are fundamental differences between the dynamics of propagation of S2 and S3 premature impulses: for S2 impulses |INa,max| recovers fast, prematurity decreases and CV increases as propagation proceeds; for S3 impulses low values of |INa,max| persist, prematurity could increase, and CV could decrease as impulses propagate away from the site of initiation. As a consequence it is more likely that S3 impulses block at sites of structural heterogeneities causing source/sink mismatch than S2 impulses block. Whether premature impulses block at Gj heterogeneities or not is also determined by the values of Gj (and the space constant λ) in the regions proximal and distal to the heterogeneity: when λ in the direction of propagation increases >40%, premature impulses could block. The maximum slope of CV restitution curves for S2 impulses is larger than for S3 impulses.
IN CONCLUSION: (1) The dynamics of propagation of premature impulses make more likely that S3 impulses block at sites of structural heterogeneities than S2 impulses block; (2) Structural heterogeneities causing an increase in λ (or CV) of >40% could result in block of premature impulses; (3) A decrease in the maximum slope of CV restitution curves of propagating premature impulses is indicative of an increased potential for block at structural heterogeneities.