Isolated cardiac muscle techniques and studies of the chronically instrumented fetal lamb heart were employed to evaluate the ability of fetal myocardium to exhibit poststimulation potentiation. Isometric tension development and the response to paired electrical stimulation were significantly reduced in isolated fetal ventricular myocardium when compared to the adult (P less than 0.001). As in the adult, increasing stimulation frequency raised fetal isometric tension via an increase in the rate of rise of tension development in the presence of reduction in time-to-peak tension. In seven fetal lambs the left ventricle was chronically instrumented with endocardial ultrasonic crystals and a high-fidelity micromanometer. After a 2-wk recovery period, heart rate was increased by atrial pacing from an average control level of 150 to 300 beats/min. Left ventricular dP/dt increased progressively and then fell beyond a heart rate of 270/min. When comparable pre- and immediate postpacing beats were analyzed, a step-wise increase in the velocity of left ventricular shortening and the mean rate of circumferential fiber shortening was observed in association with an increase in the extent of shortening. Thus, increases in the frequency of contraction exert a significant positive inotropic effect on the fetal heart.
- Copyright © 1975 by American Physiological Society