An efficient finite element approach for modeling fibrotic clefts in the heart

IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2014 Mar;61(3):900-10. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2013.2292320.


Advanced medical imaging technologies provide a wealth of information on cardiac anatomy and structure at a paracellular resolution, allowing to identify microstructural discontinuities which disrupt the intracellular matrix. Current state-of-the-art computer models built upon such datasets account for increasingly finer anatomical details, however, structural discontinuities at the paracellular level are typically discarded in the model generation process, owing to the significant costs which incur when using high resolutions for explicit representation. In this study, a novel discontinuous finite element (dFE) approach for discretizing the bidomain equations is presented, which accounts for fine-scale structures in a computer model without the need to increase spatial resolution. In the dFE method, this is achieved by imposing infinitely thin lines of electrical insulation along edges of finite elements which approximate the geometry of discontinuities in the intracellular matrix. Simulation results demonstrate that the dFE approach accounts for effects induced by microscopic size scale discontinuities, such as the formation of microscopic virtual electrodes, with vast computational savings as compared to high resolution continuous finite element models. Moreover, the method can be implemented in any standard continuous finite element code with minor effort.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Endomyocardial Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Endomyocardial Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Finite Element Analysis
  • Heart / physiology
  • Heart Ventricles / cytology
  • Heart Ventricles / pathology
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Models, Cardiovascular*
  • Myocardium / pathology*
  • Myocytes, Cardiac / cytology
  • Rabbits