Coronary artery pathophysiology after radiofrequency catheter ablation: review and perspectives

Heart Rhythm. 2011 Dec;8(12):1975-80. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2011.07.006. Epub 2011 Jul 6.


Background: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) has proven to be an effective and safe treatment in patients with ventricular and atrial tachyarrhythmias. Among complications arising after RFA, the incidence of coronary artery (CA) injury is exceedingly low. When CA injury does occur, however, it can be clinically devastating. The proximity of CAs to common ablation sites suggests that the relationship between RFA and CA perfusion pathophysiology is important for optimal lesion formation and safe arrhythmia treatments.

Objective: Although others have described the presentation and outcomes of patients with CA injury after ablation, a review that consolidates the mechanisms of CA injury after RFA has yet to be presented in the cardiology literature.

Methods: We conducted an extensive literature search of studies published over the past 30 years that relate the biophysics of RFA with CA perfusion pathophysiology and injury.

Results: We present a review of the dynamic relationship between RFA and CA perfusion. We describe RFA lesion pathology, mechanisms of CA injury from RFA, and factors that influence lesion formation, such as convective cooling and the shadow effect.

Conclusion: We summarize methods to mitigate CA injury after RFA and propose new research avenues to optimize lesion formation and safe arrhythmia treatments when tissue is ablated in the vicinity of CAs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Burns / etiology*
  • Burns / prevention & control
  • Catheter Ablation / adverse effects*
  • Coronary Vessels / injuries*
  • Coronary Vessels / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Tachycardia / surgery*
  • Treatment Outcome