Introduction: We assessed the mode of reinitiation of atrial fibrillation (AF) after cardioversion and the efficacy of ablating these foci of reinitiation in patients with chronic AF.
Methods and results: Fifteen patients, 7 with structural heart disease, underwent mapping and catheter ablation of drug-resistant AF documented to be persistent for 5 +/- 4 months. In all patients, cardioversion was followed by documentation of P on T atrial ectopy and early recurrence, which allowed mapping of the reinitiating trigger or the source of ectopy. Radiofrequency (RF) ablation was performed at pulmonary vein (PV) ostia using a target temperature of 50 degrees C and a power limit of 30 to 40 W, with the endpoint being interruption of all local muscle conduction. A total of 32 arrhythmogenic PVs and 2 atrial foci (left septum and left appendage) were identified: 1, 2, and 3 or 4 PVs in 5, 3, and 6 patients. RF applications at the ostial perimeter resulted in progressively increasing delay, followed by abolition of PV potentials in 8, but potentials persisted in 6. A single ablation session was performed in 7 patients and 8 underwent two or three sessions because of recurrence of AF; ablation was directed at the same source due to recovery of local PV potential or at a different PV. No PV stenosis was noted either acutely or at repeated follow-up angiograms. Nine patients (60%) were in stable sinus rhythm without antiarrhythmic drugs at follow-up of 11 +/- 8 months. Anticoagulants were interrupted in 7 patients.
Conclusion: PVs are the dominant triggers reinitiating chronic AF in this patient population. Elimination of PV potentials by ostial RF applications results in stable sinus rhythm in 60%. A larger group and longer follow-up are needed to investigate further the role of trigger ablation in curative therapy for chronic AF.