Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most prevalent form of cardiac arrhythmia. The atrial wall thickness (AWT) can potentially improve our understanding of the mechanism underlying atrial structure that drives AF and provides important clinical information. However, most existing studies for estimating AWT rely on ruler-based measurements performed on only a few selected locations in 2D or 3D using digital calipers. Only a few studies have developed automatic approaches to estimate the AWT in the left atrium, and there are currently no methods to robustly estimate the AWT of both atrial chambers. Therefore, we have developed a computational pipeline to automatically calculate the 3D AWT across bi-atrial chambers and extensively validated our pipeline on both ex vivo and in vivo human atria data. The atrial geometry was first obtained by segmenting the atrial wall from the MRIs using a novel machine learning approach. The epicardial and endocardial surfaces were then separated using a multi-planar convex hull approach to define boundary conditions, from which, a Laplace equation was solved numerically to automatically separate bi-atrial chambers. To robustly estimate the AWT in each atrial chamber, coupled partial differential equations by coupling the Laplace solution with two surface trajectory functions were formulated and solved. Our pipeline enabled the reconstruction and visualization of the 3D AWT for bi-atrial chambers with a relative error of 8% and outperformed existing algorithms by >7%. Our approach can potentially lead to improved clinical diagnosis, patient stratification, and clinical guidance during ablation treatment for patients with AF.
Anatomically realistic computational models provide a powerful platform for investigating mechanisms that underlie atrial rhythm disturbances. In recent years, novel techniques have been developed to construct structurally-detailed, image-based models of 3D atrial anatomy. However, computational models still do not contain full descriptions of the atrial intramural myofiber architecture throughout the entire atria. To address this, a semi-automatic rule-based method was developed for generating multi-layer myofiber orientations in the human atria. The rules for fiber generation are based on the careful anatomic studies of Ho, Anderson and co-workers using dissection, macrophotography and visual tracing of fiber tracts. Separately, a series of high color contrast images were obtained from sheep atria with a novel confocal surface microscopy method. Myofiber orientations in the normal sheep atria were estimated by eigen-analyis of the 3D image structure tensor. These data have been incorporated into an anatomical model that provides the quantitative representation of myofiber architecture in the atrial chambers. In this study, we attempted to compare the two myofiber generation approaches. We observed similar myo-bundle structure in the human and sheep atria, for example in Bachmann's bundle, atrial septum, pectinate muscles, superior vena cava and septo-pulmonary bundle. Our computational simulations also confirmed that the preferential propagation pathways of the activation sequence in both atrial models is qualitatively similar, largely due to the domination of the major muscle bundles.