Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Peter S. Spector

Second Advisor

Margaret Eppstein


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia in the United States today. However, treatment options remain limited despite the enormous magnitude of both AF prevalence and the associated economic cost. Of those treatment options that are available, ablation-based interventional methods have demonstrated the highest rates of long-term cure. Unfortunately, these methods have substantially lower efficacy in patients with heavier burdens of disease, thus leaving the most affected individuals with the least hope for successful treatment.

The focus of this research is to develop a mechanistically guided approach towards the treatment of multi-wavelet reentry (MWR), one of the primary drivers of AF. For this purpose, we use a computational model of electrical propagation in cardiac tissue to simulate both episodes of fibrillatory activity and the ablative treatment thereof. We demonstrate that the probability of forming the reentrant circuits necessary for continuous electrical activity is a function of the shape and size of a tissue as well as its underlying cellular properties. Ablation at tissue sites with high probability of circuit formation more efficiently reduces the overall duration of fibrillatory episodes than ablation at sites with low probability. We then propose and validate in silico a parameter-based metric for predicting the propensity of an individual tissue to support fibrillation, which we term the fibrillogenicity index. Using this metric, we develop an algorithm for prospectively determining optimized, tissue-specific ablation patterns. Finally, we examine the relationship between multi-wavelet reentry and focal drivers, and demonstrate that MWR and fibrillatory conduction exist along a continuum. We examine the complex interplay between functional and structural substrates within fibrillating tissue and define the mechanisms by which they promote the perpetuation of AF.

These findings present a novel theoretical framework for understanding treatment of multi-wavelet reentry driven AF and provide a set of testable predictions that can serve to guide the design of future experimental studies aimed at advancing the rational design of patient-specific ablation sets for treating AF.



Number of Pages

185 p.