Identification of atrial sites that perpetuate atrial fibrillation (AF), and ablation thereof terminates AF, is challenging. We hypothesized that specific electrogram (EGM) characteristics identify AF-termination sites (AFTS). Twenty-one patients in whom low-voltage-guided ablation after pulmonary vein isolation terminated clinical persistent AF were included. Patients were included if short RF-delivery for <8sec at a given atrial site was associated with acute termination of clinical persistent AF. EGM-characteristics at 21 AFTS, 105 targeted sites without termination and 105 non-targeted control sites were analyzed. Alteration of EGM-characteristics by local fibrosis was evaluated in a three-dimensional high resolution (100 µm)-computational AF model. AFTS demonstrated lower EGM-voltage, higher EGM-cycle-length-coverage, shorter AF-cycle-length and higher pattern consistency than control sites (0.49 ± 0.39 mV vs. 0.83 ± 0.76 mV, p < 0.0001; 79 ± 16% vs. 59 ± 22%, p = 0.0022; 173 ± 49 ms vs. 198 ± 34 ms, p = 0.047; 80% vs. 30%, p < 0.01). Among targeted sites, AFTS had higher EGM-cycle-length coverage, shorter local AF-cycle-length and higher pattern consistency than targeted sites without AF-termination (79 ± 16% vs. 63 ± 23%, p = 0.02; 173 ± 49 ms vs. 210 ± 44 ms, p = 0.002; 80% vs. 40%, p = 0.01). Low voltage (0.52 ± 0.3 mV) fractionated EGMs (79 ± 24 ms) with delayed components in sinus rhythm ('atrial late potentials', respectively 'ALP') were observed at 71% of AFTS. EGMs recorded from fibrotic areas in computational models demonstrated comparable EGM-characteristics both in simulated AF and sinus rhythm. AFTS may therefore be identified by locally consistent, fractionated low-voltage EGMs with high cycle-length-coverage and rapid activity in AF, with low-voltage, fractionated EGMs with delayed components/ 'atrial late potentials' (ALP) persisting in sinus rhythm.
The arrhythmogenic mechanisms of atrial fibrillation (AF) are still not well understood. Increased atrial fibrosis is a structural hallmark in patients with persistent AF. We assessed the electrogram signature rotational activity and their spatial relationship to low voltage areas in patients with persistent AF. Computer simulations implicating 3- dimensional atrial tissue with different amount of atrial fibrosis were used to assess development and stability of rotational activities during AF. Rotor anchoring occurred at the borderzone between fibrosis and healthy atrial tissue with 12 consecutive rotations prior to rotor extinction. Rotational activity in fibrotic tissue resulted in fractionated signals and were overlapped with large negative electrograms in unipolar recording mode from neighboring healthy tissue impressing as a focal source. Necessary conditions for development and stability of rotational activities around fibrosis were on the one hand a minimum size of atrial fibrosis area equal or larger than 10mm x 10mm and on the other hand the degree of atrial fibrosis of 40%. Clinical data showed that AF termination sites were located within low voltage areas (displaying <0,5mV in AF on the multielectrode mapping catheter) in 80% and at their borderzones in 20% of cases.