Image-Based Computational Evaluation of the Effects of Atrial Wall Thickness and Fibrosis on Re-entrant Drivers for Atrial Fibrillation

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Introduction: Catheter ablation (CA) is a common treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF), but the knowledge of optimal ablation sites, and hence clinical outcomes, are suboptimal. Increasing evidence suggest that ablation strategies based on patient-specific substrates information, such as distributions of fibrosis and atrial wall thickness (AWT), may be used to improve therapy. We hypothesized that competing influences of large AWT gradients and fibrotic patches on conductive properties of atrial tissue can determine locations of re-entrant drivers (RDs) sustaining AF.

Methods: Two sets of models were used: (1) a simple model of 3D atrial tissue slab with a step change in AWT and a synthetic fibrosis patch, and (2) 3D models based on patient-specific right atrial (RA) and left atrial (LA) geometries. The latter were obtained from four healthy volunteers and two AF patients, respectively, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A synthetic fibrotic patch was added in the RA and fibrosis distributions in the LA were obtained from gadolinium-enhanced MRI of the same patients. In all models, 3D geometry was combined with the Fenton-Karma atrial cell model to simulate RDs.

Results: In the slab, RDs drifted toward, and then along the AWT step. However, with additional fibrosis, the RDs were localized in regions between the step and fibrosis. In the RA, RDs drifted toward and anchored to a large AWT gradient between the crista terminalis (CT) region and the surrounding atrial wall. Without such a gradient, RDs drifted toward the superior vena cava (SVC) or the tricuspid valve (TSV). With additional fibrosis, RDs initiated away from the CT anchored to the fibrotic patch, whereas RDs initiated close to the CT region remained localized between the two structures. In the LA, AWT was more uniform and RDs drifted toward the pulmonary veins (PVs). However, with additional fibrotic patches, RDs either anchored to them or multiplied.

Conclusion: In the RA, RD locations are determined by both fibrosis and AWT gradients at the CT region. In the LA, they are determined by fibrosis due to the absence of large AWT gradients. These results elucidate mechanisms behind the stabilization of RDs sustaining AF and can help guide ablation therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1352
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2018


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