Radiofrequency ablation has become a first-line approach for curative therapy of many cardiac arrhythmias. Various existing catheter designs provide high spatial resolution to identify the best spot for performing ablation and to assess lesion formation. However, creation of transmural and nonconducting ablation lesions requires usage of catheters with larger electrodes and improved thermal conductivity, leading to reduced spatial sensitivity. As trade-off, an ablation catheter with integrated mini electrodes was introduced. The additional diagnostic benefit of this catheter is still not clear. In order to solve this issue, we implemented a computational setup with different ablation scenarios. Our in silico results show that peak-to-peak amplitudes of unipolar electrograms from mini electrodes are more suitable to differentiate ablated and nonablated tissue compared to electrograms from the distal ablation electrode. However, in orthogonal mapping position, no significant difference was observed between distal electrode and mini electrodes electrograms in the ablation scenarios. In conclusion, catheters with mini electrodes bring about additional benefit to distinguish ablated tissue from nonablated tissue in parallel position with high spatial resolution. It is feasible to detect conduction gaps in linear lesions with this catheter by evaluating electrogram data from mini electrodes.
Cardiac excitation during atrial fibrillation (AFib) is changing dynamically, compromising the ability to identify underlying mechanisms by intracardiac catheter mapping. Statistical analysis of dominant excitation patterns may help to identify and subsequently eliminate the drivers of this tachycardia. As the morphology of local bipolar intracardiac electrograms (EGMs) depends on the orientation of the propagating excitation wave, its evaluation for a fixed multichannel catheter position can provide information about the stability of the depolarization pattern. Up to date, analysis of morphology is most often done by computing a similarity index or the recurrence rate of individual EGMs, reflecting how often similar excitations appear. We sougth to extend this approach to a classification based analysis technique. In each multichannel EGM, local activation waves (LAWs) were automatically detected by assessing instantaneous signal energy. A greedy algorithm was implemented to cluster LAWs based on their similiarity. New clusteres were formed when similarity fell below a predefined threshold. The concept was tested using simulated EGM data (quadratic patch of cardiac tissue, bidomain simulation, both planar and focal excitations, various catheter types). Results demonstrated that the algorithm correctly identified and classified the simulated excitation patterns. Subsequent quantitative analysis allowed to both discard singular classes of excitation and identify dominant excitations. The presented method forms the basis for statistical assessment of prevailing depolarization patterns, and for computation of additional features like conduction velocity, presence of focal sources, or dissociation when applied on multichannel data.
Today, patients suffering from atrial arrhythmias like atrial flutter (AFlut) or atrial fibrillation (AFib) are examined in the EP-lab (electrophysiology lab) in order to understand and treat the disease. Multichannel catheters are advanced into the atria in order to measureelectric signals at manyintracardiacpositions simultaneously. Complementary to clinical learning,comprehension of the disease and therapeutic strategies can be improved with computer modeling of the heart. This way, hypotheses about initiation and perpetuation of the arrhythmia can be tested and ablation strategies can be assessed in-silico. Modeling and biosignal analysis can benefit from mutual fertilization. On the one hand, modeling can be improved and personalization can be achieved via high density mapping of the atria. On the other hand, new algorithms for the interpretation of multichannel electrograms can be developed and evaluated with synthetic signals from computer models of the atria. This article illustrates the synergetic potential by examples and highlights challenges to be addressed in the future.
Atrial arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are a major health challenge in developed countries. Radiofrequency ablation performed via intracardiac catheters is a curative therapy for these reentrant arrhythmias. However, the optimal location of ablation lesions is not straightforward to determine, particularly for complex activation patterns. Thus, a clinical need for tools to intuitively visualize complex activation patterns and to provide a platform to evaluate different ablation strategies in dry runs is apparent. Here, we present a virtual reality system that allows to interactively simulate atrial excitation propagation and place ablation lesions. Our software builds on the IMHOTEP framework for the Unity3D engine and implements a multithreaded model-view-controller design pattern. Excitation propagation is computed using a fast marching approach considering refractoriness. Interactive rewind and playback is supported through a combination of the flyweight pattern for simulation data with complete snapshots for key frames. The system was evaluated in a user study using the HTC ViveTM headset including two controllers. For high fidelity virtual reality interaction, a minimum frame rate of 60 per second is required. In a biatrial anatomical model comprising 36,059 nodes (Figure 1), even complex activation patterns with multiple wavefronts could be simulated and rendered down to 2x slow motion (1 sec activation sequence displayed during 2 sec wall time) on a desktop machine. Results of the user study suggest added value regarding the comprehension of arrhythmias and ablation options and very good intuitiveness of the user interface requiring almost no teach-in. The virtual reality tool is ready to be used for educational purposes and prepared to import personalized models supporting diagnosis and therapy planning for atrial arrhythmias in the future.
Intracardiac electrogram recordings during atrial fibrillation (AFib) are characterized by irregular rhythms and complex morphologies. Hence, analysis in the time domain is a difficult task. The so called dominant frequency DF is a spectrum based approach that aims at finding the most relevant frequency in a signal providing information about the rate and dynamics of AFib. However, in recent years various studies reported controversial results regarding the clinical relevance of the DF. In this work, a definition of the DF at a fundamental scale is proposed as the rate at which action potentials are triggered in atrial cells. The most common method to estimate the DF in literature, labeled as DFSpec, is examined in comparison to the proposed definition. A signal processing study using synthetic signals verified that the DFSpec is stable for all changes in morphology of atrial activations. However, it is also demonstrated that the DFSpec becomes unstable for variations above 20% in the cycle length of a signal. Spectrum based DF estimation should be interpreted in a critical manner and is not advisable for study endpoints or clinical markers.
Recent studies about the development of endocardial radiofrequency (RF) ablation lesions (ALs) tried to identify reliable electrogram (EGM) markers for assessment of lesion transmurality. Additional clinically relevant information for physicians can be provided by examining endocardial EGM parameters like signal morphology, amplitude or time points in the signal. We investigated EGM features of the pulmonary vein ostia before and after RF ablation for three point-shaped lesions. Using high-density (HD) mapping, local activation time (LAT) and voltage maps were created, which provided information about the RF ALs regarding the lesion size and showed activation time delay as well as low-voltage areas with bipolar peak-to-peak voltages smaller than 2mV. The time delay of the depolarization front comparing the activation times anterior and posterior to the RF AL was up to 51.5 ms. In a circular area with 5mm radius around an RF AL the mean peak-to-peak voltage decreased by 62-94% to about 0.12-0.44mV and the mean maximal absolute EGM derivative was reduced by 65-96 %. Comparing the results of this study with EGMs of similar clinical settings confirmed our expectations regarding the low-voltage areas caused by the ablation procedure. An improved understanding of the electrophysiological changes is of fundamental importance to provide more information for enhanced RF ablation assessment.
Acquiring adequate mapping data in patients with atrial fibrillation is still one of the main obstacles in the treatment of this atrial arrhythmia. Due to the lack of catheters with both a panoramic field of view and sufficient electrode density for simultaneous mapping, electrophysiologists are forced to fall back on sequential mapping techniques. But, because activation patterns change rapidly during atrial fibrillation, they cannot be mapped sequentially. We propose that mapping tissue properties which are time independent, in contrast, allows a sequential approach. Here, we use the shortest measured electrogram cycle length to estimate the effective refractory period of the underlying tissue in a simulation study. Atrial fibrillation was simulated in a spherical model of the left atrium comprised of regions with varied refractory period. We found that the minimal measured electrogram cycle length correlates with the effective refractory period of the underlying tissue if the regions with distinct refractory properties are large enough and if the absolute difference in effective refractory periods is sufficient. This approach is capable of identifying regions of lowered effective refractory period without the need for cardioversion. Those regions are likely to harbor drivers of atrial fibrillation, which emphasizes the necessity of their localization.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation guided by basket catheter mapping has shown to be beneficial. Yet, the initial excitement is mitigated by a growing skepticism due to the difficulty in verifying the protocol in multicenter studies. Overall, the underlying assumptions of rotor ablation require further verification. The aim of this study was therefore to test such hypotheses by using computational modeling. The 3D left atrial geometry of an AF patient was segmented from a pre-operative MR scan. Atrial activation was simulated on the 3D anatomy using the monodomain approach and a variant of the Courtemanche action potential model. Ablated tissue was assigned zero conductivity. Reentry was successfully initialized by applying a single suitably delayed extra stimulus. Unipolar electrograms were computed at the simulated electrode positions. The final dataset was generated by varying location of reentry and catheter position within the LA. The effect of inter-electrode distance and distance to the atrial wall was studied in relation to the ability to recover rotor trajectory, as computed by a novel algorithm described here. The effect of rotor ablation was also assessed.