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Waveform Integrity in Atrial Fibrillation: The Forgotten Issue of Cardiac Electrophysiology

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Abstract

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia in clinical practice with an increasing prevalence of about 15% in the elderly. Despite other alternatives, catheter ablation is currently considered as the first-line therapy for the treatment of AF. This strategy relies on cardiac electrophysiology systems, which use intracardiac electrograms (EGM) as the basis to determine the cardiac structures contributing to sustain the arrhythmia. However, the noise-free acquisition of these recordings is impossible and they are often contaminated by different perturbations. Although suppression of nuisance signals without affecting the original EGM pattern is essential for any other later analysis, not much attention has been paid to this issue, being frequently considered as trivial. The present work introduces the first thorough study on the significant fallout that regular filtering, aimed at reducing acquisition noise, provokes on EGM pattern morphology. This approach has been compared with more refined denoising strategies. Performance has been assessed both in time and frequency by well established parameters for EGM characterization. The study comprised synthesized and real EGMs with unipolar and bipolar recordings. Results reported that regular filtering altered substantially atrial waveform morphology and was unable to remove moderate amounts of noise, thus turning time and spectral characterization of the EGM notably inaccurate. Methods based on Wavelet transform provided the highest ability to preserve EGM morphology with improvements between 20 and beyond 40%, to minimize dominant atrial frequency estimation error with up to 25% reduction, as well as to reduce huge levels of noise with up to 10 dB better reduction. Consequently, these algorithms are recommended as a replacement of regular filtering to avoid significant alterations in the EGMs. This could lead to more accurate and truthful analyses of atrial activity dynamics aimed at understanding and locating the sources of AF.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the projects TEC2014-52250-R from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and PPII-2014-026-P from Junta de Comunidades de Castilla–La Mancha.

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The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Miguel Martínez-Iniesta.

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Associate Editor Ender A Finol oversaw the review of this article.

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Martínez-Iniesta, M., Ródenas, J., Alcaraz, R. et al. Waveform Integrity in Atrial Fibrillation: The Forgotten Issue of Cardiac Electrophysiology. Ann Biomed Eng 45, 1890–1907 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10439-017-1832-6

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Keywords

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Electrogram
  • Filtering
  • Wavelet transform
  • Empirical mode decomposition