Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common arrhythmia in humans, is initiated when triggered activity from the pulmonary veins propagates into atrial tissue and degrades into reentrant activity. Although experimental and clinical findings show a correlation between atrial fibrosis and AF, the causal relationship between the two remains elusive. This study used an array of 3D computational models with different representations of fibrosis based on a patient-specific atrial geometry with accurate fibrotic distribution to determine the mechanisms by which fibrosis underlies the degradation of a pulmonary vein ectopic beat into AF. Fibrotic lesions in models were represented with combinations of: gap junction remodeling; collagen deposition; and myofibroblast proliferation with electrotonic or paracrine effects on neighboring myocytes. The study found that the occurrence of gap junction remodeling and the subsequent conduction slowing in the fibrotic lesions was a necessary but not sufficient condition for AF development, whereas myofibroblast proliferation and the subsequent electrophysiological effect on neighboring myocytes within the fibrotic lesions was the sufficient condition necessary for reentry formation. Collagen did not alter the arrhythmogenic outcome resulting from the other fibrosis components. Reentrant circuits formed throughout the noncontiguous fibrotic lesions, without anchoring to a specific fibrotic lesion.
Copyright © 2013 Biophysical Society. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.