Simulating photon scattering effects in structurally detailed ventricular models using a Monte Carlo approach

Front Physiol. 2014 Sep 9;5:338. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00338. eCollection 2014.


Light scattering during optical imaging of electrical activation within the heart is known to significantly distort the optically-recorded action potential (AP) upstroke, as well as affecting the magnitude of the measured response of ventricular tissue to strong electric shocks. Modeling approaches based on the photon diffusion equation have recently been instrumental in quantifying and helping to understand the origin of the resulting distortion. However, they are unable to faithfully represent regions of non-scattering media, such as small cavities within the myocardium which are filled with perfusate during experiments. Stochastic Monte Carlo (MC) approaches allow simulation and tracking of individual photon "packets" as they propagate through tissue with differing scattering properties. Here, we present a novel application of the MC method of photon scattering simulation, applied for the first time to the simulation of cardiac optical mapping signals within unstructured, tetrahedral, finite element computational ventricular models. The method faithfully allows simulation of optical signals over highly-detailed, anatomically-complex MR-based models, including representations of fine-scale anatomy and intramural cavities. We show that optical action potential upstroke is prolonged close to large subepicardial vessels than further away from vessels, at times having a distinct "humped" morphology. Furthermore, we uncover a novel mechanism by which photon scattering effects around vessels cavities interact with "virtual-electrode" regions of strong de-/hyper-polarized tissue surrounding cavities during shocks, significantly reducing the apparent optically-measured epicardial polarization. We therefore demonstrate the importance of this novel optical mapping simulation approach along with highly anatomically-detailed models to fully investigate electrophysiological phenomena driven by fine-scale structural heterogeneity.

Keywords: Monte Carlo; bidomain; cardiac modeling; optical mapping; photon scattering.