Thermal ablation is rapidly becoming a standard of care for the treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF), a cardiac disorder characterized by irregular heart rhythm and estimated to impact more than 33 million people worldwide [1]. AtriCure is a company that specializes in epicardial ablation for AF and here we describe the development of a numerical model to study the performance of the Isolator® Synergy™ Clamp bipolar radiofrequency (RF) device. The clamp device features two jaws with embedded electrode pairs, which are used to secure the tissue by clamping across the left atrium (as shown in Figure 1). Energy is applied between the bipolar electrodes at approximately 460 kHz through an impedance-based control algorithm and is additionally duty-cycled between the pairs to further distribute the heating. Patient anatomies vary greatly and measured impedance will depend on atrial wall thickness, epicardial fat, electrode-tissue engagement, and structural variations. Further, tissue conductivity (inversely related to impedance) increases as the tissue is heated, leading to a complicated process, where the heat generation depends on the impedance, which in turn is a strong function of temperature. Energy delivery continues until a phase change in the tissue’s water content occurs, producing a sharp increase in impedance and termination of the ablation. Therefore, since tissue impedance and heating drive the device’s performance, a majority of the effort described here focuses on the validation work done to ensure the model is based on an accurate description of the tissue properties and response. While previous modeling of RF ablation often does include temperature-dependence of tissue properties, the referenced values vary notably and rarely include direct validation of modeling results to benchtop data. Variations in anatomy and fat content can dramatically impact the energy delivery and patient-to-patient treatment efficacy, so an accurate description of the tissue response is critical to understanding the limitations of current energy delivery algorithms and provides an invaluable tool in designing more efficacious ablation devices and algorithms.

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