Purpose: To perform a proof-of-principle dose-escalation study to radiosurgically induce scarring in cardiac muscle tissue to block veno-atrial electrical connections at the pulmonary vein antrum, similar to catheter ablation.
Methods and materials: Nine mini-pigs underwent pretreatment magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluation of heart function and electrophysiology assessment by catheter measurements in the right superior pulmonary vein (RSPV). Immediately after examination, radiosurgery with randomized single-fraction doses of 0 and 17.5-35 Gy in 2.5-Gy steps were delivered to the RSPV antrum (target volume 5-8 cm(3)). MRI and electrophysiology were repeated 6 months after therapy, followed by histopathologic examination.
Results: Transmural scarring of cardiac muscle tissue was noted with doses ≥32.5 Gy. However, complete circumferential scarring of the RSPV was not achieved. Logistic regressions showed that extent and intensity of fibrosis significantly increased with dose. The 50% effective dose for intense fibrosis was 31.3 Gy (odds ratio 2.47/Gy, P<.01). Heart function was not affected, as verified by MRI and electrocardiogram evaluation. Adjacent critical structures were not damaged, as verified by pathology, demonstrating the short-term safety of small-volume cardiac radiosurgery with doses up to 35 Gy.
Conclusions: Radiosurgery with doses >32.5 Gy in the healthy pig heart can induce circumscribed scars at the RSPV antrum noninvasively, mimicking the effect of catheter ablation. In our study we established a significant dose-response relationship for cardiac radiosurgery. The long-term effects and toxicity of such high radiation doses need further investigation in the pursuit of cardiac radiosurgery for noninvasive treatment of atrial fibrillation.
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