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.
Research software has become a central asset in academic research. It optimizes existing and enables new research methods, implements and embeds research knowledge, and constitutes an essential research product in itself. Research software must be sustainable in order to understand, replicate, reproduce, and build upon existing research or conduct new research effectively. In other words, software must be available, discoverable, usable, and adaptable to new needs, both now and in the future. Research software therefore requires an environment that supports sustainability. Hence, a change is needed in the way research software development and maintenance are currently motivated, incentivized, funded, structurally and infrastructurally supported, and legally treated. Failing to do so will threaten the quality and validity of research. In this paper, we identify challenges for research software sustainability in Germany and beyond, in terms of motivation, selection, research software engineering personnel, funding, infrastructure, and legal aspects. Besides researchers, we specifically address political and academic decision-makers to increase awareness of the importance and needs of sustainable research software practices. In particular, we recommend strategies and measures to create an environment for sustainable research software, with the ultimate goal to ensure that software-driven research is valid, reproducible and sustainable, and that software is recognized as a first class citizen in research. This paper is the outcome of two workshops run in Germany in 2019, at deRSE19 - the first International Conference of Research Software Engineers in Germany - and a dedicated DFG-supported follow-up workshop in Berlin.
Background: Rate-varying S1S2 stimulation protocols can be used for restitution studies to characterize atrial substrate, ionic remodeling, and atrial fibrillation risk. Clinical restitution studies with numerous patients create large amounts of these data. Thus, an automated pipeline to evaluate clinically acquired S1S2 stimulation protocol data necessitates consistent, robust, reproducible, and precise evaluation of local activation times, electrogram amplitude, and conduction velocity. Here, we present the CVAR-Seg pipeline, developed focusing on three challenges: (i) No previous knowledge of the stimulation parameters is available, thus, arbitrary protocols are supported. (ii) The pipeline remains robust under different noise conditions. (iii) The pipeline supports segmentation of atrial activities in close temporal proximity to the stimulation artifact, which is challenging due to larger amplitude and slope of the stimulus compared to the atrial activity. Methods and Results: The S1 basic cycle length was estimated by time interval detection. Stimulation time windows were segmented by detecting synchronous peaks in different channels surpassing an amplitude threshold and identifying time intervals between detected stimuli. Elimination of the stimulation artifact by a matched filter allowed detection of local activation times in temporal proximity. A non-linear signal energy operator was used to segment periods of atrial activity. Geodesic and Euclidean inter electrode distances allowed approximation of conduction velocity. The automatic segmentation performance of the CVAR-Seg pipeline was evaluated on 37 synthetic datasets with decreasing signal-to-noise ratios. Noise was modeled by reconstructing the frequency spectrum of clinical noise. The pipeline retained a median local activation time error below a single sample (1 ms) for signal-to-noise ratios as low as 0 dB representing a high clinical noise level. As a proof of concept, the pipeline was tested on a CARTO case of a paroxysmal atrial fibrillation patient and yielded plausible restitution curves for conduction speed and amplitude. Conclusion: The proposed openly available CVAR-Seg pipeline promises fast, fully automated, robust, and accurate evaluations of atrial signals even with low signal-to-noise ratios. This is achieved by solving the proximity problem of stimulation and atrial activity to enable standardized evaluation without introducing human bias for large data sets.
In patients with atrial fibrillation, intracardiac electrogram signal amplitude is known to decrease with increased structural tissue remodeling, referred to as fibrosis. In addition to the isolation of the pulmonary veins, fibrotic sites are considered a suitable target for catheter ablation. However, it remains an open challenge to find fibrotic areas and to differentiate their density and transmurality. This study aims to identify the volume fraction and transmurality of fibrosis in the atrial substrate. Simulated cardiac electrograms, combined with a generalized model of clinical noise, reproduce clinically measured signals. Our hybrid dataset approach combines and clinical electrograms to train a decision tree classifier to characterize the fibrotic atrial substrate. This approach captures different dynamics of the electrical propagation reflected on healthy electrogram morphology and synergistically combines it with synthetic fibrotic electrograms from experiments. The machine learning algorithm was tested on five patients and compared against clinical voltage maps as a proof of concept, distinguishing non-fibrotic from fibrotic tissue and characterizing the patient's fibrotic tissue in terms of density and transmurality. The proposed approach can be used to overcome a single voltage cut-off value to identify fibrotic tissue and guide ablation targeting fibrotic areas.