Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology August 2020 Issue

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Paul J. Wang:

Welcome to the monthly podcast! On the Beat for Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. I'm Dr. Paul Wang, Editor-in-Chief. With some of the key highlights from this month's issue.

In our first paper, Demilade Adedinsewo and associates assess the accuracy of an artificial intelligence-enabled electrocardiogram [AI-ECG] to identify patients presenting with dyspnea who have left ventricular LV systolic function (defined as LV ejection fraction ≤35%) in the emergency department [ED]. Patients were included if they had at least one standard 12-lead electrocardiogram [ECG] acquired on the date of the ED visit and an echocardiogram performed within 30 days of presentation. Patients with prior LV systolic dysfunction were excluded. A total of 1,606 patients were included. Meantime from ECG echocardiogram was one day. The AI-ECG algorithm identified LV systolic dysfunction with an area under the curve [AUC] of 0.89 and accuracy of 85.9%. Sensitivity was 74%, specificity 87%, negative predictive value 97%, and positive predictive value 40%. To identify an ejection fraction less than 50%, the AUC was 0.85, sensitivity 86%, sensitivity 63%, and specificity 91%. NT-proBNP alone with a cutoff greater than 800 identified LV systolic function with an AUC of 0.80 by comparison.

In our next paper, Mahmood Alhusseini and associates hypothesize that convolutional neural networks [CNN] may enable objective analysis of intracardiac activation in atrial fibrillation [AF]. They perform panoramic recording of bi-atrial electrical signals in AF and use the Hilbert-transform to produce 175,000 image grids in 35 patients labeled for a rotational activation by experts who showed consistency, but with variability (kappa [κ]=0.79). In each patient, ablation terminated atrial fibrillation. A CNN was developed and trained on 100,000 AF image grids validated on 25,000 grids, and then tested on a separate 50,000 grids. They found in a separate test cohort of 50,000 grids, CNN reproducibly classified AF image grids into those with or without rotational sites with 95.0% accuracy. This accuracy exceeded that of support vector machines, traditional linear discriminant, and k-nearest neighbor statistical analyses. To probe the CNN, they applied gradient weighted class activation mapping, which revealed that the decision logic closely mimicked rules used by experts (C statistic 0.96). The authors concluded that convolutional neural networks improve the classification of intercardiac AF maps compared to other analyses and agreed with expert evaluation.

In our next paper, Kenji Okubo and associates examined whether late potential LP, abolition and ventricular tachycardia [VT] non-inclusive ability predicted long-term outcomes in patients with non-ischemic cardiomyopathy [NICM] undergoing VT ablation. The total 403 patients with NICM (523 procedures) who underwent VT ablation from 2010 to 2016 were included. The underlying structural disease consists of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM, 49%), arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVD 17%), postmyocarditis (14%), valvular heart disease (8%), congenital heart disease (2%), hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (2%), and others (5%). Epicardial access was performed in 57% of patients. At baseline, the LPs were present in 60% of patients, and a VT was either inducible or sustained/incessant in 85% of the cases. At the end of the procedure LP abolition was achieved in 79% of cases in VT noninducability in 80%. After a multivariate analysis, the combination of LP abolition and VT noninducibility was independently associated with free survival from VT (hazard ratio, 0.45, p = 0.0002) and cardiac death (hazard ratio 0.38, P = 0.005). The benefit of LP abolition of preventing the VT recurrence in ARVD and postmyocarditis appeared superior to that observed for DCM.

In our next paper, Domenico Corradi, Jeffrey Saffitz and associates hypothesize that structural molecular changes in atrial myocardium that correlate with myocardial injury and precede and predict postoperative atrial fibrillation [POAF] may identify new molecular pathways and targets for prevention of this common morbid complication. Right atrial appendage [RAA] samples were prospectively collected during cardiac surgery from 239 patients enrolled in the OPERA trial. 35.2% of patients experienced POAF compared to the non-POAF group. They were significantly older and more likely to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure. They had a higher Euro score and more often underwent valve surgery. No differences in atrial size were observed between POAF and non-POAF patients. The extent of atrial interstitial fibrosis, cardiomyocyte myocytolysis, cardiomyocyte diameter, glycogen storage, or connection 43 distribution at the time of surgery, was not significantly associated with the incidents of POAF. None of these histopathological abnormalities were correlated with level of NT pro-BNP, hs-cTnT, CRP, or oxidative stress biomarkers. The authors concluded that in sinus rhythm patients undergoing cardiac surgery, histopathological changes in RAA do not predict POAF. They did not also correlate with biomarkers of cardiac function, inflammation, and oxidative stress.

In our next paper, Mark McCauley, Liang Hong, Arvind Sridhar, and associates hypothesize that obesity decreases sodium channel NAF 1.5 expression via enhanced oxidative stress, thus reducing the sodium current and enhancing susceptibility to atrial fibrillation [AF]. They studied a diet induced obese [DIO] mouse model. Pacing induced AF in 100% of DIO mice versus 25% in controls (P 20 ms shorter than the other sites, and/or induction of AF/atrial tachycardia during measurements. LVA ablation was performed in the LA-LVA patients during the follow-up period of a mean of 62 weeks, the EP test-guided group had a significantly lower recurrence rate (19%,11/57 versus 41%, 22/54, P=0.012) and a higher Kaplan-Meier AF/AT-free survival curve compared with controls (P=0.01). No significant differences in the recurrence, and AF/AT-free survival curves between PWI (positive EP test) and non-PWI (negative EP test) subgroups were observed. Therefore, PWI for positive EP tests reduced the AF/AT recurrence in the EP test-guided group. A stepwise Cox proportional hazard analysis identified EP test-guided ablation as a factor, reducing recurrence rates. The recurrence rates in LA-LVA ablation group and EP test-guided group were similar.

In our next study, Jinxuan Lin and associates assess whether simultaneous pacing of the left and right bundle branch areas may achieve more synchronous ventricular activation than just bundle pacing alone. In symptomatic bradycardia patients, the distal electrode of the bipolar pacing lead was placed at the left bundle branch area via a transventricular-septal approach. This was used to pace the left bundle branch area, while the ring electrode was used to pace the right bundle branch area. Bilateral bundle branch area pacing [BBBP] was achieved by stimulating the cathode and anode in various configurations. BBBP was successfully performed in 22 out of 36 patients. Compared with LBBP, BBBP resulted in greater shortening of QRS duration (109.3 vs 118.4 ms, P < 0.001). LBBP resulted in paced RBBB configuration with a DRVAT of 115 ms and interventricular conduction delay of 34.0 ms. BBBP fully resolved the RBBB morphology in 18 patients. In the remaining 4 patients, RBBP pacing partially corrected the right bundle branch block.

In our next paper, Ramanathan Parameswaran, Jonathan Kalman, Geoffrey Lee and associates recorded 2-minute long segments of simultaneous inter-operative mapping of endo- and epicardial lateral right atrial [RA] wall in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation [AF] using 2 high-density grid catheters (16 electrodes, 3 mm spacing). Filtered unipolar and bipolar electrograms [EGMS] of continuous 2-minute AF recordings and electrodes locations were exported for phase analysis. They defined endocardial-epicardial dissociation [EED] as phase differences of ≥20 ms between paired endo- and epi electrodes. Wavefronts [WF] were classified as single rotations, that is single wavefront, focal waves, or disorganized activity as per standard criteria. Endo-Epi wave fronts were simultaneously compared on dynamic phase maps. Complex fractionated electrograms were defined as bipolar electrograms with directional changes occupying at least 70% of the sample area. 14 patients with persistent AF underwent cardiac surgery are included. EED was seen in 50.3% of phase maps with significant temporal heterogeneity. Disorganized activity (endo 41.3%, epi 46.8%, P = 0.0194) and single wave (endo 31.3 versus epi 28.1, P = 0.129) were the dominant patterns. Transient rotations (endo 22%, epi 19.2%, P = 0.169, mean duration 590 ms) and non-sustained focal waves (endo 1.2% and epi 1.6%, P = 0.669) were also observed. Apparent transmural migration of rotational activations (n=6) from the epi- to the endocardium was seen in 2 patients. EGM fractionation was significantly higher in the epicardium than endocardium (61.2% versus 51.6%, P < 0.0001). The authors concluded that simultaneous endo-epi phase mapping of prolonged human persistent AF recordings showed significant EED marked temporal heterogeneity, discordant and transitioning wavefronts patterns and complex fractionations. No sustained focal activity was observed. Such complex 3-dimensional interactions provide insights into why endocardial mapping alone may not fully characterize the AF mechanism and why endocardial ablation may not be sufficient.

In our next paper, Andrew Beaser and associates hypothesize that intravascular ultrasound [IVUS] could accurately visualize and quantify intravascular lead adherence and degree of intravascular lead adherence correlates with transvenous lead extraction difficulty. Serial imaging of leads occurred prior to transvenous lead extraction using IVUS. Intravascular lead adherence areas were classified as high or low grade. Degree of extraction difficulty was assessed using 2 metrics and correlated with intravascular lead adherence grade. Lead extraction difficulty was calculated for each patient and compared to IVUS findings. 158 vascular segments in 60 patients were analyzed: 141 (89%) low grade versus 17 (11%) high grade. Median extraction time (low = 0 versus high grade 97 seconds, P < 0.001) and median laser pulsations delivered (low = zero versus high grade 5,852, P < 0.001) were significantly higher in the high-grade segments. Most patients with low lead extraction difficulty score had low intravascular lead adherence grades. 86% of patients with high lead extraction difficulty score had low IVUS grade, and the degree of transvenous lead extraction difficulty was similar to patients with low IVUS grades and lead extraction difficulty scores.

In our next paper, András Bratincsák, and associates sought to create the foundation of normative ECG standards in the young using Z-scores. 102 ECG variables were collected from a retrospective cohort of 27,085 study subjects with no known heart conditions, age zero to 39 years. The cohort was divided into 16 age groups by gender. Median interquartile range and range were calculated for each variable adjusted to body surface area. Normative standards were developed for all 102 ECG variables, including heart rate; P, R, and T axis; R-T axis deviation; PR interval, QS duration, QT, and QTc interval; P, Q, R, S, and T amplitudes in 12 leads; as well as QRS and T wave integrals. Incremental Z-score values between negative 2.5 and 2.5 were calculated to establish the upper and lower limits of normal. Historical ECG interpretive concepts were reassessed and new concepts observed. The author summarized that electronically acquired ECG values based on the largest pediatric and young adult cohort ever compiled provide the first detailed, standardized, quantitative foundation of traditional and novel ECG variables.

In our next paper, Jungmin Hwang and associates hypothesize that suppressing the late sodium current may counterbalance the reduced repolarization reserve in long QT syndrome [LQTS] and prevent early depolarization [EAD] and polymorphic ventricular tachycardia [PVT]. They tested the effects of selective late sodium channel blocker GS967 on polymorphic ventricular tachycardia [PVT] induction in a transgenic rabbit model of type two using intact heart optical mapping, cellular electrophysiology, and confocal calcium imaging and computer modeling. They found that GS967 reduced ventricular fibrillation [VF] induction under a rapid pacing protocol (7 out of 14 hearts in control versus 1 out of 14 at 100 nanomolar) without altering action potential duration [APD] or restitution and dispersion. GS967 suppressed PVT incidents by reducing calcium mediated EADs and focal activity during isoproterenol perfusion (at 30 nanomolar, 7 out of 12 and a 100 nanomolar, 8 out of 12 without EADs and PVTs). Confocal calcium imaging of LQT myocytes revealed GS967 shortened calcium transient duration by accelerating sodium calcium exchanger mediated calcium efflux from cytosol, thereby reducing EADs. Computer modeling revealed the inward late sodium current potentiates EADs in the LQT setting through providing additional depolarizing currents through action potential plateau phase, and increasing intracellular sodium that decreases the depolarizing sodium calcium exchanger, thereby suppressing the action potential plateau and delaying the activation of slowly activating delayed rectifier current, IKS. Suggesting important roles in the late sodium current in regulating intracellular sodium. Thus, the authors concluded that selective late sodium channel blockade by GS967 prevents EADs and abolishes PVT in LQT rabbits by counterbalancing the reduced repolarization reserve and normalizing intracellular sodium.

In our next paper, Pietro Lazzerini, Mohamed Boutjdir and associates, hypothesize that systemic inflammation per se can significantly prolong QTc during infection via cytokine-mediated changes in potassium channel expression. They found in patients with acute infections, regardless of concomitant QT-prolonging anti-microbial therapy, QTc was significantly prolonged but rapidly normalized in parallel to C-reactive protein [CRP] and cytokine level reduction. Consistently, in Torsades de Pointes cohort, concomitant acute infections were prevalent 30% despite only a minority (25%) of these cases were treated with QT-prolonging anti-microbials. KCN J2, potassium channel expression in peripheral blood mononuclear cells was strongly correlated to that in ventricles, inversely associated to CRP and interleukin one changes in acute infection patients. The authors concluded that acute infection, systemic inflammation rapidly induces cytokine-mediated ventricular electrical remodeling and significant QTc prolongation, regardless of concomitant antimicrobial therapy.

In a research letter, Christophe Beyls and associates examined the risk of bradycardia and critically ill COVID-19 patients treated with Lopinavir [LPV], a protease inhibitor of HIV-1, and Ritonavir [RTV], another protease inhibitor that strongly inhibits hepatic cytochrome P 450 [CYP3A4] activity in order to increase the Lopinavir plasma concentration. During the first month of the outbreak, patients admitted to the ICU with positive PCR for COVID-19 received LPV (200 mg)/RVT (50 mg) twice daily for 10 days. Bradycardia was defined as heart rate below 60 for a period of more than 24 hours. All patients were monitored 24 hours a day for all hemodynamic parameters, including heart rate with a five-lead ECG. Monitors were linked to a computerized system allowing to extract hemodynamic data. LPV/RTV plasma concentration was monitored using analytic method, combining high propensity performance, liquid chromatography and tandem mass spectrometry at 72 hours and every 72 hours. They prospectively included 41 COVID-19 patients who received LPV/RTV treatment. Nine or 22% patients experienced bradycardia. No patients had a pre-existing nodal pathology on the ECG on admission. Among the 9 patients with bradycardia, 8 or 88% were sinus bradycardia and one (12%) third-degree AV block. Causality may be considered as bradycardia occurred at least 48 hours after LPV/RTV initiation, bradycardia resolved after discontinuation or dose reduction and no alternative cause was found. Patients who presented with bradycardia were older, had a higher RTV plasma concentration and a lower lymphocyte count. In our study, no correlation was found between RTV plasma concentration, LPV plasma concentration, and mean heart rate at day three. No patient had bradycardia in the first 48 hours after LPV/RTV administration. For patients with LPV RTV plasma level overdose, the dose of LPV RTV was divided by two until the next dose. For the patient with third degree AV block LPV/RTV was stopped. None of the patients had any known cytochrome CYP3A4-inhibiting drugs. The authors concluded that the results suggest that RTV plasma overdose in elderly critical ill patients may increase the risk of bradycardia.

In a research letter, Emily Zeitler and associates surveyed cardiac implantable device [CID] patients. A total of 109 patients were approached to participate, nine declined. Most respondents were white (79%), male (60%) with a mean age of 73 years. The median number of correct responses to the 11 factual questions was six. Respondents held some common misconceptions. For example, 25% of respondents believe that FDA determines the cost of the device. Trust in the FDA was high; 67% of respondents agreed "I trust the FDA". Respondents mostly agreed "the FDA would not approve my device unless it was a hundred percent safe". Only 6% of respondents agreed, "we would be better off if there was no FDA," and a similarly small fraction disagreed with "when it comes to medical devices, the U.S. does the best job in the world at keeping people safe". Most respondents, 69% demonstrated fear of device recalls by agreeing with "if there was a recall of all are part of my device, I think I would be worried or scared." On average, respondents were comfortable sacrificing some privacy for device surveillance, 75% agreed with "once the device has been approved, the FDA should continue to monitor for signs that there are problems with the device even if it means that private health information about me is collected". Respondents seemed to believe that the FDA was risk averse; 56% believed that the FDA does not approve devices unless they're a hundred percent safe. This is in contrast to trends shifting the demonstration of safety to post-approval settings and expanding acceptable forms of data for regulatory approval.

In a research letter, Laura Rottner, Christoph Sinning and associates examined novel high resolution imaging system based on a wide band dielectric technology, and reports the first clinical experience of feasibility and reliability of cryoballoon [CB] occlusion tool as compared to fluoroscopic and 3D transesophogeal [TEE] assessment during pulmonary vein isolation [PVI]. In consecutive patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation [AF], cryoballoon-based ablation was performed with a novel 3D wide-band dielectric imaging system. Pulmonary vein [PV] occlusion was assessed with fluoroscopy in 3D-TEE and concomitantly correlated with the novel CB occlusion tool. The endpoint was defined as persistent PV isolation verified by spiral mapping catheter recordings 30 minutes after the last CB application. A total of 36 (90%) of PVs in 10 patients with paroxysmal (40%) and persistent (60%) were analyzed. In all patients, a normal PV anatomy with four separate PVs was documented. Visualization via 3D-TEE was feasible in 80% septal PVs and 100% of lateral PVs. In 67% of PVs, total PV occlusion was confirmed by all 3 imaging modalities. In 17% of PVs, incomplete PV occlusion was initially demonstrated by TEE and 3D dielectric imaging, whereas fluoroscopy suggested complete occlusion in initial analysis. After repositioning of the CB at 3 PVs, complete PV occlusion was verified by all three modalities. In 3 out of 36 (8%), no occlusion was initially seen by any imaging modality, for which the CB was repositioned resulting in total PV occlusion as confirmed by all three modalities. Two out of 36 PVs (6%) were confirmed to be occluded via fluoroscopy in 3D-TEE, but not by the CB occlusion tool. There was only one out of 36 PVs (3%), which were confirmed to be included by the CB tool and 3D-TEE, but not by fluoroscopy. A negative and positive predictive value of 1.0 and 0.6 was seen when comparing PV occlusion by the novel occlusion tool compared to PV collusion, verified by fluoroscopy and 3D-TEE.

In a special report, Jun Hirokami, and associates aim to clarify the spatial correlations between fractionated potential detected by Lumipoint with non-PV trigger. They enrolled 30 symptomatic atrial fibrillation [AF] patients who underwent non pulmonary vein [PV] foci ablation. 4 patients underwent the first procedure, 17 underwent second procedure and eight underwent third procedure, and one underwent a fourth procedure. They highlighted the fractionated signal area in atrial muscle [FAAM] during sinus rhythm and atrial pacing, thereby producing a digital FAAM map. They retrospectively applied Lumipoint to 30 patients in order to clarify the relationship between FAAM and non-pulmonary vein [PV] foci. Non-PV foci were successfully identified in all patients. They identified four patients with multiple non-PV foci. Of these four patients, one had non-PV foci at the superior vena cava and left arterial anterior wall. One had non-PV foci at the SVC and LA bottom wall. And two had non-PV foci at the SVC and interatrial septum. They only analyze 30 non-PV foci unrelated to SVC because the SVC isolation was routinely performed for non-PVC foci at the SVC. In order to analyze the correlation between FAAM and location of non-PV triggers, they determined the cutoff points of peaks slider, which non-PV triggers were completely located within the FAAM in. The accuracy of predicting location of the non-PV triggers was summarized using area under the receiver operating curve, a UROC curve. The optimal cutoff point of peak sliders to predict the location of non-PV was determined by the Youden Index. The Youden Index established the optimal cutoff point of the maximum peaks slider was 7; sensitivity was 0.906 and specificity 0.770. The peaks slider 7 was the most accurate predictor fractionated signals location area to the location of non-PV triggers. (area under the curve 0.902). The mean area of peaks slider 7 was six centimeters squared or 4.3% of the atrium. The authors concluded that the proof-of-concept observational study demonstrated that novel visualization tool of FAAM map successfully identified non-PV triggers that did not induce atrial fibrillation and/or non-PV foci, which potentially serve as substrates for AF maintenance.

In a special report, Leslie Saxon and associates update their prior publication providing further detail on mitigation adoption rates for the entirety of the U.S. patient population with implanted cardiac rhythm management devices falling under FDA cyber security advisories from any device manufacturer. They also provided limited data on known cybersecurity mitigation adoption outside the U.S. They report a unique complication resulting for introducing firmware to already implanted devices. Discuss how evolving FDA policies towards firmware mitigation adoption may increasingly determine how and when updates occur. They found that patients under 50 years of age and those over 80 years were less likely to receive the software upgrades, and male versus females had greater rates of upgrades. The upgrade rates varied according to U.S. Region and date of implant. Resynchronization devices were less likely to receive the upgrade, as were pacemaker dependent patient. Those ICD patients initially falling under the battery advisers were upgraded more frequently. The number of advisory patients followed in clinic was a significant predictor for firmware upgrade adoption, particularly for pacemakers that were often upgraded in smaller size clinics. Overall, only 24% of devices for all groups, and 22% of devices not impacted by the battery advisory were upgraded. For Abbott devices, the home communicator cyber security vulnerabilities were mitigated with an automatic software patch that was updated using the Merlin network, and adoption rates were nearly a hundred percent. For the entire patient cohort with impacted pacemaker and ICDs, U.S. and global adoption rates remain low at 24 to 35% with a low rate of complications. Most reported complications for pacemakers and ICD were symptoms (transient palpitations, dizziness, or syncope) that resulted from the temporary change in mode to VVI or transient loss of programmer telemetry while performing the upgrade (pacemaker 0.05%; ICD 0.01%). Globally, a total of 9 pacemakers and 8 ICDs required replacement, as a result of performing the firmware upgrade due to irreversible reversion to a backup pacing mode and loss of defibrillation therapy (ICDs). Analysis of the returned ICD pulse generaotrs found at 7 cases, the cause related to a capacitor bond failure that was exposed only when extended telemetry as required by the upgrade. The failure mechanism was an isolated component failure in the remaining ICD. The programmer based test has recently been FDA approved and can be performed prior to firmware upgrade to identify ICD patients at risk for capacitor bond failure. A total of 256 ICDs were susceptible to loss of RF telemetry after receiving a firmware update, and this has since been mitigated with a software patch. For Medtronic programmers, the initial mitigation responses of cybersecurity advisory was to take the programmers off the network. The network connection was enhanced with one or more security protections provided to the programmers using a flash drive, so the programmers can now be secured from potential cyber intrusion when connected to the network. Medtronic ICDs are currently being upgraded. The upgrade is being provided to impacted patients automatically when the device is interrogated with the programmer during follow-up. Metronic is introducing upgrades in phased approach with all expected to be completed by the beginning of 2021. There are 9% or 55,000 ICDs under this advisory that cannot receive the update due to design or safety constraints. Since the 2017 Abbott advisories identify cybersecurity vulnerabilities in pacemakers and ICDs with the potential for exploits have been increased, including 2 additional FDA advisories issued for another manufacturer. Medtronic's connected communication product and implantable defibrillators in the past 12 months. The authors comment that a recent report and a smaller number of Abbott impacted pacemaker and ICD patients from Canada reported marked differences in mitigation adoption rates between pacemakers and ICDs. This was due to an increase incremental clinical familiarity and comfort with performing the updates as experience and education surrounding these issues evolve. The authors indicate that automating cybersecurity updates without process in place for determining safety, for alerting patients or clinicians that have been delivered, may also be associated with yet unknown risks. Newer generation devices and communication protocols may render cyber security, advisories less frequent as cybersecurity integration is considered an essential aspect of device design.

In a review article, Albert Feeny and associates discuss the use of artificial intelligence [AI] and machine learning [ML] in medicine, which are currently areas of intense exploration showing potential to automate human tasks or even perform tasks beyond human capabilities. The first objective of this review is to provide the novice reader with a literacy of AI/ML methods, and to provide a foundation of how one may conduct an ML study. The review provides a technical overview of some of the most commonly used terms, challenges in AI/ML studies with reference to recent studies in cardiac electrophysiology to illustrate key points. The second objective of this review is to use examples from the recent literature to discuss how AI and ML are changing clinical practice and research in cardiac electrophysiology with emphasis on disease detection and diagnosis, prediction, and patient outcomes and novel characterization of disease. The final objective is to highlight important considerations and challenges for appropriate variation, adoption, and deployment of AI technologies and practice.

That's it for this month! We hope that you will find the journal to be the go-to place for everyone interested in the field! See you next time! This program is copyright American Heart Association 2020. Thank you.

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