Atrial dilatation and myocardial stretch are strongly associated with atrial fibrillation (AF). However, the mechanisms by which the three-dimensional (3D) atrial architecture and heterogeneous stretch contribute to AF perpetuation are incompletely understood. We compared AF dynamics during stretch-related AF (pressure: 12cmH(2)O) in normal sheep hearts (n = 5) and in persistent AF (PtAF, n = 8)-remodelled hearts subjected to prolonged atrial tachypacing. We hypothesized that, in the presence of stretch, meandering 3D atrial scroll waves (ASWs) anchor in regions of large spatial gradients in wall thickness.
METHODS AND RESULTS:
We implemented a high-resolution optical mapping set-up that enabled simultaneous epicardial- and endoscopy-guided endocardial recordings of the intact atria in Langendorff-perfused normal and PtAF (AF duration: 21.3 ± 11.9 days) hearts. The numbers and lifespan of long-lasting ASWs (>3 rotations) were greater in PtAF than normal (lifespan 0.9 ± 0.5 vs. 0.4 ± 0.2 s/(3 s of AF), P< 0.05). Than normal hearts, focal breakthroughs interacted with ASWs at the posterior left atrium and left atrial appendage to maintain AF. In PtAF hearts, ASW filaments seemed to span the atrial wall from endocardium to epicardium. Numerical simulations using 3D atrial geometries (Courtemanche-Ramirez-Nattel human atrial model) predicted that, similar to experiments, filaments of meandering ASWs stabilized at locations with large gradients in myocardial thickness. Moreover, simulations predicted that ionic remodelling and heterogeneous distribution of stretch-activated channel conductances contributed to filament stabilization.
The heterogeneous atrial wall thickness and atrial stretch, together with ionic and anatomic remodelling caused by AF, are the main factors allowing ASW and AF maintenance.
Cardiovascular Research 01/2012; Volume 94(Issue 1):Page 48-57. · 6.06 Impact Factor