Detection of focal source and arrhythmogenic substrate from body surface potentials to guide atrial fibrillation ablation

Yingjing Feng*, Caroline H. Roney, Jason D. Bayer, Steven A. Niederer, Mélèze Hocini, Edward J. Vigmond

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Focal sources (FS) are believed to be important triggers and a perpetuation mechanism for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF). Detecting FS and determining AF sustainability in atrial tissue can help guide ablation targeting. We hypothesized that sustained rotors during FS-driven episodes indicate an arrhythmogenic substrate for sustained AF, and that non-invasive electrical recordings, like electrocardiograms (ECGs) or body surface potential maps (BSPMs), could be used to detect FS and AF sustainability. Computer simulations were performed on five bi-atrial geometries. FS were induced by pacing at cycle lengths of 120–270 ms from 32 atrial sites and four pulmonary veins. Self-sustained reentrant activities were also initiated around the same 32 atrial sites with inexcitable cores of radii of 0, 0.5 and 1 cm. FS fired for two seconds and then AF inducibility was tested by whether activation was sustained for another second. ECGs and BSPMs were simulated. Equivalent atrial sources were extracted using second-order blind source separation, and their cycle length, periodicity and contribution, were used as features for random forest classifiers. Longer rotor duration during FS-driven episodes indicates higher AF inducibility (area under ROC curve = 0.83). Our method had accuracy of 90.6±1.0% and 90.6±0.6% in detecting FS presence, and 93.1±0.6% and 94.2±1.2% in identifying AF sustainability, and 80.0±6.6% and 61.0 ±5.2% in determining the atrium of the focal site, from BSPMs and ECGs of five atria. The detection of FS presence and AF sustainability were insensitive to vest placement (±9.6%). On pre-operative BSPMs of 52 paroxysmal AF patients, patients classified with initiator-type FS on a single atrium resulted in improved two-to-three-year AF-free likelihoods (p-value < 0.01, logrank tests). Detection of FS and arrhythmogenic substrate can be performed from ECGs and BSPMs, enabling non-invasive mapping towards mechanism-targeted AF treatment, and malignant ectopic beat detection with likely AF progression.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009893
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022


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