Background - The presence of focal fibrillation waves during atrial fibrillation (AF) can, besides ectopic activity, also be explained by asynchronous activation of the atrial endo- and epicardial layer and transmurally propagating fibrillation waves. To provide direct proof of endo-epicardial asynchrony, we performed simultaneous high-resolution mapping of the right atrial endo- and epicardial wall during AF in humans. Method and Results - Intraoperative mapping of the endo- and epicardial right atrial wall was performed during (induced) AF in 10 patients with AF (paroxysmal: n=3; persistent: n=4; and longstanding persistent: n=3) and 4 patients without a history of AF. A clamp made of 2 rectangular 8×16 electrode arrays (interelectrode distance 2 mm) was inserted into the incision in the right atrial appendage. Recordings of 10 seconds of AF were analyzed to determine the incidence of asynchronous endo-epicardial activation times (≥15 ms) of opposite electrodes. Asynchronous endo-epicardial activation ranged between 0.9 and 55.9% without preference for either side. Focal waves appeared equally frequent at endocardium and epicardium (11% versus 13%; P=0.18). Using strict criteria for breakthrough (presence of an opposite wave within 4 mm and ≤14 ms before the origin of the focal wave), the majority (65%) of all focal fibrillation waves could be attributed to endo-epicardial excitation. Conclusions - We provided the first evidence for asynchronous activation of the endo-epicardial wall during AF in humans. Endo-epicardial asynchrony may play a major role in the pathophysiology of AF and may offer an explanation why in some patients therapy fails.

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Circulation. Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology
Department of Cardiology

de Groot, N.M.S, van der Does, J.M.E, Yaksh, A, Lanters, E.A.H, Teuwen, C.P, Knops, S.P, … Allessie, M.A. (2016). Direct Proof of Endo-Epicardial Asynchrony of the Atrial Wall During Atrial Fibrillation in Humans. Circulation. Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology, 9(5). doi:10.1161/CIRCEP.115.003648