MRI Reconstructions of Human Phrenic Nerve Anatomy and Computational Modeling of Cryoballoon Ablative Therapy

Ryan P. Goff, Julianne H. Spencer, Paul A. Iaizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


The primary goal of this computational modeling study was to better quantify the relative distance of the phrenic nerves to areas where cryoballoon ablations may be applied within the left atria. Phrenic nerve injury can be a significant complication of applied ablative therapies for treatment of drug refractory atrial fibrillation. To date, published reports suggest that such injuries may occur more frequently in cryoballoon ablations than in radiofrequency therapies. Ten human heart–lung blocs were prepared in an end-diastolic state, scanned with MRI, and analyzed using Mimics software as a means to make anatomical measurements. Next, generated computer models of ArticFront cryoballoons (23, 28 mm) were mated with reconstructed pulmonary vein ostias to determine relative distances between the phrenic nerves and projected balloon placements, simulating pulmonary vein isolation. The effects of deep seating balloons were also investigated. Interestingly, the relative anatomical differences in placement of 23 and 28 mm cryoballoons were quite small, e.g., the determined difference between mid spline distance to the phrenic nerves between the two cryoballoon sizes was only 1.7 ± 1.2 mm. Furthermore, the right phrenic nerves were commonly closer to the pulmonary veins than the left, and surprisingly tips of balloons were further from the nerves, yet balloon size choice did not significantly alter calculated distance to the nerves. Such computational modeling is considered as a useful tool for both clinicians and device designers to better understand these associated anatomies that, in turn, may lead to optimization of therapeutic treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1097-1106
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Biomedical Engineering
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, The Author(s).


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Cryoballoon ablation
  • Phrenic nerve anatomies
  • Phrenic nerve palsy
  • Phrenic nerve paralysis


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