Frontiers in Physiology (2018-09-01)

Targeting the Substrate in Ablation of Persistent Atrial Fibrillation: Recent Lessons and Future Directions

  • Martin K. Stiles,
  • Martin K. Stiles,
  • Prashanthan Sanders,
  • Dennis H. Lau

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 9


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While isolation of the pulmonary veins is firmly established as effective treatment for the majority of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF) patients, there is recognition that patients with persistent AF have substrate for perpetuation of arrhythmia existing outside of the pulmonary veins. Various computational approaches have been used to identify targets for effective ablation of persistent AF. This paper aims to discuss the clinical aspects of computational approaches that aim to identify critical sites for treatment. Various analyses of electrogram characteristics have been performed with this aim. Leading techniques for electrogram analysis are Complex Fractionated Atrial Electrograms (CFAE) and Dominant Frequency (DF). These techniques have been the subject of clinical trials of which the results are discussed. Evaluation of the activation patterns of atria in AF has been another avenue of research. Focal Impulse and Rotor Modulation (FIRM) mapping and forms of Body Surface Mapping aim to characterize multiple atrial wavelets, macro-reentry and focal sources which have been proposed as basic mechanisms perpetuating AF. Both invasive and non-invasive activation mapping techniques are reviewed. The presence of atrial fibrosis causes non-uniform anisotropic impulse propagation. Therefore, identification of fibrosis by imaging techniques is an avenue of potential research. The leading contender for imaging-based techniques is Cardiac Magnetic Resonance (CMR). As this technology advances, improvements in resolution and scar identification have positioned CMR as the mode of choice for analysis of atrial structure. AF has been demonstrated to be associated with obesity, inactivity and diseases of modern life. An opportunity exists for detailed computational analysis of the impact of risk factor modification on atrial substrate. This ranges from microstructural investigation through to examination at a population level via registries and public health interventions. Computational analysis of atrial substrate has moved from basic science toward clinical application. Future directions and potential limitations of such analyses are examined in this review.