Cardiac sympathectomy for the management of ventricular arrhythmias refractory to catheter ablation

Heart Rhythm. 2018 Jan;15(1):56-62. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2017.09.006. Epub 2017 Sep 14.


Background: Catheter ablation is now a mainstay of therapy for ventricular arrhythmias (VAs). However, there are scenarios where either physiological or anatomical factors make ablation less likely to be successful.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to demonstrate that cardiac sympathetic denervation (CSD) may be an alternate therapy for patients with difficult-to-ablate VAs.

Methods: We identified all patients referred for CSD at a single center for indications other than long QT syndrome and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia who had failed catheter ablation. Medical records were reviewed for medical history, procedural details, and follow-up.

Results: Seven cases of CSD were identified in patients who had failed prior catheter ablation or had disease not amenable to ablation. All patients had VAs refractory to antiarrhythmic drugs, with a median arrhythmia burden of 1 episode of sustained VA per month. There were no acute complications of sympathectomy. One of 7 patients (14%) underwent heart transplant. No patient had sustained VA after sympathectomy at a median follow-up of 7 months.

Conclusion: Because of anatomical and physiological constraints, many VAs remain refractory to catheter ablation and remain a significant challenge for the electrophysiologist. While CSD has been described as a therapy for long QT syndrome and catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, data regarding its use in other cardiac conditions are sparse. This series illustrates that CSD may be a viable treatment option for patients with a variety of etiologies of VAs.

Keywords: Autonomics; Cardiac sympathetic denervation; Catheter ablation; ICD shocks; Ventricular arrhythmia; Ventricular fibrillation; Ventricular tachycardia.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Catheter Ablation / adverse effects*
  • Disease Management*
  • Electrocardiography*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sympathectomy / methods*
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / physiopathology
  • Tachycardia, Ventricular / therapy*
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Treatment Failure
  • Treatment Outcome