Alessandro Masci, Lorenzo Barone, Luca Dedè, Marco Fedele, Corrado Tomasi, Alfio Quarteroni and Cristiana Corsi

Frontiers in Physiology Volume 9, Year 2019, Page 1938
Open Access:


Atrial fibrillation (AF) carries out a 5-fold increase in stroke risk, related to embolization of thrombi clotting in left atrium (LA). Left atrial appendage (LAA) is the site with the highest blood stasis which causes thrombus formation. About 90 % of the intracardiac thrombi in patients with cardioembolic events originally develop in the LAA. Recent studies have been focused on the association between LAA anatomical features and stroke risk and provided conflicting results. Haemodynamic and fluid dynamic information on the LA and mostly on the LAA may improve stroke risk stratification. Therefore, the aim of this study was the design and development of a workflow to quantitatively define the influence of the LAA morphology on LA hemodynamics. Five 3D LA anatomical models, obtained from real clinical data, which were clearly different as regard to LAA morphology were used. For each LAA we identified and computed several parameters describing its geometry. Then, one LA chamber model was chosen and a framework was developed to connect the different LAAs belonging to the other four patients to this model. These new anatomical models represented the computational domain for the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) study; simulations of the hemodynamics within the LA and LAA were performed in order to evaluate the interplay of the LAA shape on the blood flow characteristics in AF condition. CFD simulations were carried out for five cardiac cycles. Blood velocity, vorticity, LAA orifice velocity, residence time computed in the five models were compared and correlated with LAA morphologies. Results showed that not only complex morphologies were characterized by low velocities, low vorticity and consequently could carry a higher thrombogenic risk; even qualitatively simple morphologies showed a thrombogenic risk equal, or even higher, than more complex auricles. CFD results supported the hypothesis that LAA geometric characteristics plays a key-role in defining thromboembolic risk. LAA geometric parameters could be considered, coupled with the morphological characteristics, for a comprehensive evaluation of the regional blood stasis. The proposed procedure might address the development of a tool for patient-specific stroke risk assessment and preventive treatment in AF patients, relying on morpho-functional defintion of each LAA type.