Models of cardiac mechanics are increasingly used to investigate cardiac physiology. These models are characterized by a high level of complexity, including the particular anisotropic material properties of biological tissue and the actively contracting material. A large number of independent simulation codes have been developed, but a consistent way of verifying the accuracy and replicability of simulations is lacking. To aid in the verification of current and future cardiac mechanics solvers, this study provides three benchmark problems for cardiac mechanics. These benchmark problems test the ability to accurately simulate pressure-type forces that depend on the deformed objects geometry, anisotropic and spatially varying material properties similar to those seen in the left ventricle and active contractile forces. The benchmark was solved by 11 different groups to generate consensus solutions, with typical differences in higher-resolution solutions at approximately 0.5%, and consistent results between linear, quadratic and cubic finite elements as well as different approaches to simulating incompressible materials. Online tools and solutions are made available to allow these tests to be effectively used in verification of future cardiac mechanics software.
Thin-walled cardiac tissue samples superfused with oxygenated solutions are widely used in experimental studies. However, due to decreased oxygen supply and insufficient wash out of waste products in the inner layers of such preparations, electrophysiological functions could be compromised. Although the cascade of events triggered by cutting off perfusion is well known, it remains unclear as to which degree electrophysiological function in viable surface layers is affected by pathological processes occurring in adjacent tissue. Using a 3D numerical bidomain model, we aim to quantify the impact of superfusion-induced heterogeneities occurring in the depth of the tissue on impulse propagation in superficial layers. Simulations demonstrated that both the pattern of activation as well as the distribution of extracellular potentials close to the surface remain essentially unchanged. This was true also for the electrophysiological properties of cells in the surface layer, where most relevant depolarization parameters varied by less than 5.5 %. The main observed effect on the surface was related to action potential duration that shortened noticeably by 53 % as hypoxia deteriorated. Despite the known limitations of such experimental methods, we conclude that superfusion is adequate for studying impulse propagation and depolarization whereas repolarization studies should consider the influence of pathological processes taking place at the core of tissue sample.
Ongoing developments in cardiac modelling have resulted, in particular, in the development of advanced and increasingly complex computational frameworks for simulating cardiac tissue electrophysiology. The goal of these simulations is often to represent the detailed physiology and pathologies of the heart using codes that exploit the computational potential of high-performance computing architectures. These developments have rapidly progressed the simulation capacity of cardiac virtual physiological human style models; however, they have also made it increasingly challenging to verify that a given code provides a faithful representation of the purported governing equations and corresponding solution techniques. This study provides the first cardiac tissue electrophysiology simulation benchmark to allow these codes to be verified. The benchmark was successfully evaluated on 11 simulation platforms to generate a consensus gold-standard converged solution. The benchmark definition in combination with the gold-standard solution can now be used to verify new simulation codes and numerical methods in the future.
Atrial myofiber orientation is complex and has multiple discrete layers and bundles. A novel robust semi-automatic method to incorporate atrial anisotropy and heterogeneities into patient-specific models is introduced. The user needs to provide 22 distinct seed-points from which a network of auxiliary lines is constructed. These are used to define fiber orientation and myocardial bundles. The method was applied to 14 patient-specific volumetric models derived from CT, MRI and photographic data. Initial electrophysiological simulations show a significant influence of anisotropy and heterogeneity on the excitation pattern and P-wave duration (20.7% shortening). Fiber modeling results show good overall correspondence with anatomical data. Minor modeling errors are observed if more than four pulmonary veins exist in the model. The method is an important step towards creating realistic patient-specific atrial models for clinical applications.