Long-term outcomes after pulmonary vein isolation for atrial fibrillation (AF) remain uncertain. In particular, the influence of rigorous arrhythmia monitoring on outcomes is not yet clear. In this study, 103 patients with symptomatic AF who underwent catheter ablation at a single academic medical center from 2002 to 2006 were evaluated, with a median follow-up time of 6 years. The primary end point was the success rate of catheter ablation, defined as the absence of any atrial arrhythmia recurrence lasting >10 seconds at the clinical visit and electrocardiographic or long-term cardiac rhythm recording after a single procedure and after the last procedure. In all, 153 procedures were performed, with a median of 1 (interquartile range 1 to 2) per patient as follows: 61 had 1, 35 had 2, 6 had 3, and 1 had 4 catheter ablations. Freedom from all atrial arrhythmias was present in 23% of patients at 6 years after a single procedure and in 39% of patients after the last procedure. No clinical predictors of AF recurrence were recognized after a single procedure, whereas after the last procedure, in univariate and multivariate Cox regression analysis, only nonparoxysmal AF (hazard ratio 1.92, 95% confidence interval 1.07 to 3.47, p = 0.02) was a predictor of recurrence. In conclusion, AF recurrence at 6-year follow-up after catheter ablation in a selected group of patients with symptomatic drug-refractory AF was relatively high, with 2/3 of AF relapses occurring in the first year of follow-up. Strict clinical surveillance after catheter ablation should be considered to help guide clinical decisions.
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