A Phase Defect Framework for the Analysis of Cardiac Arrhythmia Patterns

Louise Arno, Jan Quan, Nhan T. Nguyen, Maarten Vanmarcke, Elena G. Tolkacheva, Hans Dierckx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During cardiac arrhythmias, dynamical patterns of electrical activation form and evolve, which are of interest to understand and cure heart rhythm disorders. The analysis of these patterns is commonly performed by calculating the local activation phase and searching for phase singularities (PSs), i.e., points around which all phases are present. Here we propose an alternative framework, which focuses on phase defect lines (PDLs) and surfaces (PDSs) as more general mechanisms, which include PSs as a specific case. The proposed framework enables two conceptual unifications: between the local activation time and phase description, and between conduction block lines and the central regions of linear-core rotors. A simple PDL detection method is proposed and applied to data from simulations and optical mapping experiments. Our analysis of ventricular tachycardia in rabbit hearts (n = 6) shows that nearly all detected PSs were found on PDLs, but the PDLs had a significantly longer lifespan than the detected PSs. Since the proposed framework revisits basic building blocks of cardiac activation patterns, it can become a useful tool for further theory development and experimental analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number690453
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
StatePublished - Sep 22 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
ET was supported by National Science Foundation DCSD Grant 1662250. HD received mobility funding from the FWO-Flanders, Grant K145019N. LA was supported by a KU Leuven FLOF grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© Copyright © 2021 Arno, Quan, Nguyen, Vanmarcke, Tolkacheva and Dierckx.


  • cardiac arrhythmia
  • non-linear analysis
  • phase defect
  • self-organization
  • spiral wave

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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