A randomized study of prophylactic catheter ablation in asymptomatic patients with the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome

N Engl J Med. 2003 Nov 6;349(19):1803-11. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa035345.


Background: Young age and inducibility of atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia or atrial fibrillation during invasive electrophysiological testing identify asymptomatic patients with a Wolff-Parkinson-White pattern on the electrocardiogram as being at high risk for arrhythmic events. We tested the hypothesis that prophylactic catheter ablation of accessory pathways would provide meaningful and durable benefits as compared with no treatment in such patients.

Methods: From 1997 to 2002, among 224 eligible asymptomatic patients with the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, patients at high risk for arrhythmias were randomly assigned to radio-frequency catheter ablation of accessory pathways (37 patients) or no treatment (35 patients). The end point was the occurrence of arrhythmic events over a five-year follow-up period.

Results: Patients assigned to ablation had base-line characteristics that were similar to those of the controls. Two patients in the ablation group (5 percent) and 21 in the control group (60 percent) had arrhythmic events. One control patient had ventricular fibrillation as the presenting arrhythmia. The five-year Kaplan-Meier estimates of the incidence of arrhythmic events were 7 percent among patients who underwent ablation and 77 percent among the controls (P<0.001 by the log-rank test); the risk reduction with ablation was 92 percent (relative risk, 0.08; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.02 to 0.33; P<0.001).

Conclusions: Prophylactic accessory-pathway ablation markedly reduces the frequency of arrhythmic events in asymptomatic patients with the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome who are at high risk for such events.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Catheter Ablation*
  • Electrocardiography
  • Electrophysiologic Techniques, Cardiac
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Analysis
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome / therapy*