1. A group of rabbits was made hypothyroid by thyroidectomy, and another group was injected daily with L‐thyroxine. After an appropriate interval respective alterations in thyroid state were confirmed by measurement of heart weight and of plasma iodine, and the animals' atria were isolated for recording. 2. Measurements were made of atrial contractions, conduction velocity, spontaneous heart rate and maximum driven frequency, and action potentials were recorded with intracellular micro‐electrodes. 3. The resting potential and action potential heights were not affected by differences of thyroid state. 4. Atrial arrhythmias are common in hyperthyroidism, rare in myxoedema. The possibility that hypothyroidism might reduce the rate of rise of the action potential, as do anti‐arrhythmic drugs, and hyperthyroidism increase it, was investigated. Although the rate of rise was slower in hypothyroid atria at some driving frequencies, this could not alone account for an anti‐arrhythmic effect, because at frequencies near the spontaneous heart rate the rate of rise of the action potential was not reduced. 5. The duration of the repolarization phase of the action potential was greatly prolonged in atria from thyroidectomized rabbits, and was shortened in hyperthyroid atria. These changes could account for a reduced probability of arrhythmias in hypothyroidism, and the converse in hyperthyroidism.
ASJC Scopus subject areas