Background: Although catheter ablation therapy for atrial fibrillation (AF) is becoming more common, results vary widely, and patient selection criteria remain poorly defined. We hypothesized that late gadolinium enhancement MRI (LGE-MRI) can identify left atrial (LA) wall structural remodeling (SRM) and stratify patients who are likely or not to benefit from ablation therapy.
Methods and results: LGE-MRI was performed on 426 consecutive patients with AF without contraindications to MRI before undergoing their first ablation procedure and on 21 non-AF control subjects. Patients were categorized by SRM stage (I-IV) based on the percentage of LA wall enhancement for correlation with procedure outcomes. Histological validation of SRM was performed comparing LGE-MRI with surgical biopsy. A total of 386 patients (91%) with adequate LGE-MRI scans were included in the study. After ablation, 123 patients (31.9%) experienced recurrent atrial arrhythmias during the 1-year follow-up. Recurrent arrhythmias (failed ablations) occurred at higher SRM stages with 28 of 133 (21.0%) in stage I, 40 of 140 (29.3%) in stage II, 24 of 71 (33.8%) in stage III, and 30 of 42 (71.4%) in stage IV. In multivariate analysis, ablation outcome was best predicted by advanced SRM stage (hazard ratio, 4.89; P<0.0001) and diabetes mellitus (hazard ratio, 1.64; P=0.036), whereas increased LA volume and persistent AF were not significant predictors. LA wall enhancement was significantly greater in patients with AF versus non-AF controls (16.6±11.2% versus 3.1±1.9%; P<0.0001). Histological evidence of remodeling from surgical biopsy specimens correlated with SRM on LGE-MRI.
Conclusions: Atrial SRM is identified on LGE-MRI, and extensive LGE (≥30% LA wall enhancement) predicts poor response to catheter ablation therapy for AF.
Keywords: atrial remodeling; catheter ablation; magnetic resonance imaging.