This paper reviews the simulations of catheter ablation in computer models of the atria, from the first attempts to the most recent anatomical models. It describes how postulated substrates of atrial fibrillation can be incorporated into mathematical models, how modelling studies can be designed to test ablation strategies, what their current trade-offs and limitations are, and what clinically relevant lessons can be learnt from these simulations. Drawing a parallel between clinical and modelling studies, six ablation targets are considered: pulmonary vein isolation, linear ablation, ectopic foci, complex fractionated atrial electrogram, rotors and ganglionated plexi. The examples presented for each ablation target illustrate a major advantage of computer models, the ability to identify why a therapy is successful or not in a given atrial fibrillation substrate. The integration of pathophysiological data to create detailed models of arrhythmogenic substrates is expected to solidify the understanding of ablation mechanisms and to provide theoretical arguments supporting substrate-specific ablation strategies.
Design of simulations of ablation of atrial fibrillation. The red stars indicate the location of an ectopic focus or the position of the core of a rotor.