AIMS: Atrial stunning, a loss of atrial mechanical contraction, can occur following a successful cardioversion. It is hypothesized that persistent atrial fibrillation-induced electrical remodeling (AFER) on atrial electrophysiology may be responsible for such impaired atrial mechanics. This simulation study aimed to investigate the effects of AFER on atrial electro-mechanics.
METHODS AND RESULTS: A 3D electromechanical model of the human atria was developed to investigate the effects of AFER on atrial electro-mechanics. Simulations were carried out in 3 conditions for 4 states: (i) the control condition, representing the normal tissue (state 1) and the tissue 2-3 months after cardioversion (state 2) when the atrial tissue recovers its electrophysiological properties after completion of reverse electrophysiological remodelling; (ii) AFER-SR condition for AF-remodeled tissue with normal sinus rhythm (SR) (state 3); and (iii) AFER-AF condition for AF-remodeled tissue with re-entrant excitation waves (state 4). Our results indicate that at the cellular level, AFER (states 3 & 4) abbreviated action potentials and reduced the Ca2+ content in the sarcoplasmic reticulum, resulting in a reduced amplitude of the intracellular Ca2+ transient leading to decreased cell active force and cell shortening as compared to the control condition (states 1 & 2). Consequently at the whole organ level, atrial contraction in AFER-SR condition (state 3) was dramatically reduced. In the AFER-AF condition (state 4) atrial contraction was almost abolished.
CONCLUSIONS: This study provides novel insights into understanding atrial electro-mechanics illustrating that AFER impairs atrial contraction due to reduced intracellular Ca2+ transients.