BACKGROUND: Several recent studies suggest rotors detected by phase mapping may act as main drivers of persistent atrial fibrillation. However, the electrophysiological nature of detected rotors remains unclear. We performed a direct, 1:1 comparison between phase and activation time mapping in high-density, epicardial, direct-contact mapping files of human atrial fibrillation.
METHODS: Thirty-eight unipolar electrogram files of 10 s duration were recorded in patients with atrial fibrillation (n=20 patients) using a 16×16 electrode array placed on the epicardial surface of the left atrial posterior wall or the right atrial free wall. Phase maps and isochrone wave maps were constructed for all recordings. For each detected phase singularity (PS) with a lifespan of >1 cycle length, the corresponding conduction pattern was investigated in the isochrone wave maps.
RESULTS: When using sinusoidal recomposition and Hilbert Transform, 138 PSs were detected. One hundred and four out of 138 PSs were detected within 1 electrode distance (1.5 mm) from a line of conduction block between nonrotating wavefronts detected by activation mapping. Far fewer rotating wavefronts were detected when rotating activity was identified based on wave mapping (18 out of 8219 detected waves). Fourteen out of these 18 cases were detected as PSs in phase mapping. Phase analysis of filtered electrograms produced by simulated wavefronts separated by conduction block also identified PSs on the line of conduction block.
CONCLUSIONS: PSs identified by phase analysis of filtered epicardial electrograms colocalize with conduction block lines identified by activation mapping. Detection of PSs using phase analysis has a low specificity for identifying rotating wavefronts during human atrial fibrillation using activation mapping.