Detection of Fibrotic Remodeling of Epicardial Adipose Tissue in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation: Imaging Approach Based on Histological Observation


Fibrotic remodeling of epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) is crucial for proinflammatory atrial myocardial fibrosis, which leads to atrial fibrillation (AF).


We tested the hypothesis that the ratio of central to marginal adipocyte diameter in EAT represents its fibrotic remodeling. Based on a similar concept, we also tested whether the percent (%) change in EAT fat attenuation determined using computed tomographic (CT) images can detect this remodeling.


Left atrial appendages were obtained from 76 consecutive AF patients during cardiovascular surgery. EAT in the central area (central EAT: C-EAT) and that adjacent to the atrial myocardium (Marginal EAT: M-EAT) were evaluated histologically. CT images for all of the 76 patients were also analyzed.


The adipocyte diameter was smaller, fibrotic remodeling of EAT (EAT fibrosis) was more severe, and infiltration of macrophages and myofibroblasts was more extensive in M-EAT than in C-EAT. EAT fibrosis was positively correlated with adipocyte diameter in C-EAT and negatively correlated in M-EAT, resulting in a positive correlation between EAT fibrosis and the ratio of central to marginal adipocyte diameter (C/M diameter ratio; r = 0.73, P < .01). The C/M diameter ratio was greater in patients with persistent AF than in those with paroxysmal AF. CT images demonstrated that the %change in EAT fat attenuation was positively correlated with EAT fibrosis.


Our results suggest that the central-to-marginal adipocyte diameter ratio is tightly associated with fibrotic remodeling of EAT. In addition, the %change in EAT fat attenuation determined using CT imaging can detect remodeling noninvasively.