L. Azzolin, S. Schuler, O. Dössel, and A. Loewe. A Reproducible Protocol to Assess Arrhythmia Vulnerability : Pacing at the End of the Effective Refractory Period.. In Frontiers in Physiology, vol. 12, pp. 656411, 2021
In both clinical and computational studies, different pacing protocols are used to induce arrhythmia and non-inducibility is often considered as the endpoint of treatment. The need for a standardized methodology is urgent since the choice of the protocol used to induce arrhythmia could lead to contrasting results, e.g., in assessing atrial fibrillation (AF) vulnerabilty. Therefore, we propose a novel method-pacing at the end of the effective refractory period (PEERP)-and compare it to state-of-the-art protocols, such as phase singularity distribution (PSD) and rapid pacing (RP) in a computational study. All methods were tested by pacing from evenly distributed endocardial points at 1 cm inter-point distance in two bi-atrial geometries. Seven different atrial models were implemented: five cases without specific AF-induced remodeling but with decreasing global conduction velocity and two persistent AF cases with an increasing amount of fibrosis resembling different substrate remodeling stages. Compared with PSD and RP, PEERP induced a larger variety of arrhythmia complexity requiring, on average, only 2.7 extra-stimuli and 3 s of simulation time to initiate reentry. Moreover, PEERP and PSD were the protocols which unveiled a larger number of areas vulnerable to sustain stable long living reentries compared to RP. Finally, PEERP can foster standardization and reproducibility, since, in contrast to the other protocols, it is a parameter-free method. Furthermore, we discuss its clinical applicability. We conclude that the choice of the inducing protocol has an influence on both initiation and maintenance of AF and we propose and provide PEERP as a reproducible method to assess arrhythmia vulnerability.
The arrhythmogenesis of atrial fibrillation is associated with the presence of fibrotic atrial tissue. Not only fibrosis but also physiological anatomical variability of the atria and the thorax reflect in altered morphology of the P wave in the 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG). Distinguishing between the effects on the P wave induced by local atrial substrate changes and those caused by healthy anatomical variations is important to gauge the potential of the 12-lead ECG as a non-invasive and cost-effective tool for the early detection of fibrotic atrial cardiomyopathy to stratify atrial fibrillation propensity. In this work, we realized 54,000 combinations of different atria and thorax geometries from statistical shape models capturing anatomical variability in the general population. For each atrial model, 10 different volume fractions (0-45%) were defined as fibrotic. Electrophysiological simulations in sinus rhythm were conducted for each model combination and the respective 12-lead ECGs were computed. P wave features (duration, amplitude, dispersion, terminal force in V1) were extracted and compared between the healthy and the diseased model cohorts. All investigated feature values systematically in- or decreased with the left atrial volume fraction covered by fibrotic tissue, however value ranges overlapped between the healthy and the diseased cohort. Using all extracted P wave features as input values, the amount of the fibrotic left atrial volume fraction was estimated by a neural network with an absolute root mean square error of 8.78%. Our simulation results suggest that although all investigated P wave features highly vary for different anatomical properties, the combination of these features can contribute to non-invasively estimate the volume fraction of atrial fibrosis using ECG-based machine learning approaches.
AIMS: The treatment of atrial fibrillation beyond pulmonary vein isolation has remained an unsolved challenge. Targeting regions identified by different substrate mapping approaches for ablation resulted in ambiguous outcomes. With the effective refractory period being a fundamental prerequisite for the maintenance of fibrillatory conduction, this study aims at estimating the effective refractory period with clinically available measurements. METHODS AND RESULTS: A set of 240 simulations in a spherical model of the left atrium with varying model initialization, combination of cellular refractory properties, and size of a region of lowered effective refractory period was implemented to analyse the capabilities and limitations of cycle length mapping. The minimum observed cycle length and the 25% quantile were compared to the underlying effective refractory period. The density of phase singularities was used as a measure for the complexity of the excitation pattern. Finally, we employed the method in a clinical test of concept including five patients. Areas of lowered effective refractory period could be distinguished from their surroundings in simulated scenarios with successfully induced multi-wavelet re-entry. Larger areas and higher gradients in effective refractory period as well as complex activation patterns favour the method. The 25% quantile of cycle lengths in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation was found to range from 85 to 190 ms. CONCLUSION: Cycle length mapping is capable of highlighting regions of pathologic refractory properties. In combination with complementary substrate mapping approaches, the method fosters confidence to enhance the treatment of atrial fibrillation beyond pulmonary vein isolation particularly in patients with complex activation patterns.
Clinical and computational studies highlighted the role of atrial anatomy for atrial fibrillation vulnerability. However, personalized computational models are often generated from electroanatomical maps, which might lack important anatomical structures like the appendages, or from imaging data which are potentially affected by segmentation uncertainty. A bi-atrial statistical shape model (SSM) covering relevant structures for electrophysiological simulations was shown to cover atrial shape variability. We hypothesized that it could, therefore, also be used to infer the shape of missing structures and deliver ready-to-use models to assess atrial fibrillation vulnerability in silico. We implemented a highly automatized pipeline to generate a personalized computational model by fitting the SSM to the clinically acquired geometries. We applied our framework to a geometry coming from an electroanatomical map and one derived from magnetic resonance images (MRI). Only landmarks belonging to the left atrium and no information from the right atrium were used in the fitting process. The left atrium surface-to-surface distance between electroanatomical map and a fitted instance of the SSM was 2.26+-1.95 mm. The distance between MRI segmentation and SSM was 2.07+-1.56 mm and 3.59+-2.84 mm in the left and right atrium, respectively. Our semi-automatic pipeline provides ready-to-use personalized computational models representing the original anatomy well by fitting a SSM. We were able to infer the shape of the right atrium even in the case of using information only from the left atrium.