Background: Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT), the most common form of supraventricular tachycardia, results from conduction through a reentrant circuit comprising fast and slow atrioventricular nodal pathways. Antiarrhythmic-drug therapy is not consistently successful in controlling this rhythm disturbance. Catheter ablation of the fast pathway with radiofrequency current eliminates AVNRT, but it can produce heart block. We hypothesized that catheter ablation of the site of insertion of the slow pathway into the atrium would eliminate AVNRT while leaving normal (fast-pathway) atrioventricular nodal conduction intact.
Methods and results: Eighty patients with symptomatic AVNRT were studied. Retrograde slow-pathway conduction (in which the earliest retrograde atrial potential was recorded at the posterior septum, close to the coronary sinus) was present in 33 patients. The retrograde atrial potential was preceded by a potential consistent with activation of the atrial end of the slow pathway (ASP). In 46 of the 47 patients without retrograde slow-pathway conduction, a potential with the same characteristics as the ASP potential was recorded during sinus rhythm. Radiofrequency current delivered through a catheter to the ASP site (in the posteroseptal right atrium or coronary sinus) abolished or modified slow-pathway conduction in 78 patients, eliminating AVNRT without affecting normal atrioventricular nodal conduction. In the single patient without ASP, the application of radiofrequency current to the proximal coronary sinus ablated the fast pathway and AVNRT: Atrioventricular block occurred in one patient (1.3 percent) with left bundle-branch block, after inadvertent ablation of the right bundle branch. AVNRT has not recurred in any patient during a mean (+/- SD) follow-up of 15.5 +/- 11.3 months. Electrophysiologic study 4.3 +/- 3.3 months after ablation in 32 patients demonstrated normal atrioventricular nodal conduction without AVNRT:
Conclusions: Catheter ablation of the atrial end of the slow pathway using radiofrequency current, guided by ASP potentials, can eliminate AVNRT with very little risk of atrioventricular block.