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A method for constructing and solving detailed patient-specific 3D finite element models of the human thorax is presented for use in defibrillation studies. The method utilizes the patient's own X-ray CT scan and a simplified meshing scheme to quickly and efficiently generate a model typically composed of approximately 400,000 elements. A parameter sensitivity study on one human thorax model to examine the effects of variation in assigned tissue resistivity values, level of anatomical detail included in the model, and number of CT slices used to produce the model is presented. Of the seven tissue types examined, the average left ventricular (LV) myocardial voltage gradient was most sensitive to the values of myocardial and blood resistivity. Incorrectly simplifying the model, for example modeling the heart as a homogeneous structure by ignoring the blood in the chambers, caused the average LV myocardial voltage gradient to increase by 12%. The sensitivity of the model to variations in electrode size and position was also examined. Small changes (<2.0 cm) in electrode position caused average LV myocardial voltage gradient values to increase by up to 12%. It is concluded that patient-specific 3D finite element modeling of human thoracic electric fields is feasible and may reduce the empiric approach to insertion of implantable defibrillators and improve transthoracic defibrillation techniques.
Date of Publication: Feb. 1995