Aims Chronic left atrial enlargement (LAE) increases the risk of atrial fibrillation. Electrocardiogram (ECG) criteria might provide a means to diagnose LAE and identify patients at risk; however, current criteria perform poorly. We seek to characterize the potentially differential effects of atrial dilation vs. hypertrophy on the ECG P-wave. Methods and results We predict effects on the P-wave of (i) left atrial dilation (LAD), i.e. an increase of LA cavity volume without an increase in myocardial volume, (ii) left atrial concentric hypertrophy (LACH), i.e. a thickened myocardial wall, and (iii) a combination of the two. We performed a computational study in a cohort of 72 anatomical variants, derived from four human atrial anatomies. To model LAD, pressure was applied to the LA endocardium increasing cavity volume by up to 100%. For LACH, the LA wall was thickened by up to 3.3 mm. P-waves were derived by simulating atrial excitation propagation and computing the body surface ECG. The sensitivity regarding changes beyond purely anatomical effects was analysed by altering conduction velocity by 25% in 96 additional model variants. Left atrial dilation prolonged P-wave duration (PWd) in two of four subjects; in one subject a shortening, and in the other a variable change were seen. Left atrial concentric hypertrophy, in contrast, consistently increased P-wave terminal force in lead V1 (PTF-V1) in all subjects through an enlarged amplitude while PWd was unaffected. Combined hypertrophy and dilation generally enhanced the effect of hypertrophy on PTF-V1. Conclusion Isolated LAD has moderate effects on the currently used P-wave criteria, explaining the limited utility of PWd and PTF-V1 in detecting LAE in clinical practice. In contrast, PTF-V1 may be a more sensitive indicator of LA myocardial hypertrophy.
C. Kohl. Modelling of substrate modifications in the human atria and investigation of the resulting effects on the extracellular potential. Institute of Biomedical Engineering, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). Masterarbeit. 2015