Ablation Index and Surround Flow Catheter Irrigation: Impedance-Based Appraisal in Clinical Ablation

JACC Clin Electrophysiol. 2017 Oct;3(10):1080-1088. doi: 10.1016/j.jacep.2017.03.011. Epub 2017 Jun 28.


Objectives: This study sought to assess the impact of ablation power and catheter irrigation during clinical radiofrequency ablation using impedance drop.

Background: In preclinical studies, ablation power and catheter irrigation are determinants of ablation efficacy.

Methods: Static 30-s left atrial ablations were delivered in patients undergoing their first atrial fibrillation ablation. Impedance drop during ablation (as a measure of efficacy) was compared using the following: the force time integral (FTI); the FTI-P (a cumulative multiple FTI and ablation power), and ablation index (AI), a weighted algorithm including contact force, power, and duration. Comparison was also made between a conventionally irrigated (SmartTouch [ST]) versus surround flow (STSF) contact force-sensing catheter.

Results: We analyzed 1,013 ablations. For both catheters, the Spearman correlation was higher between impedance drop and AI (rho = 0.89 ST, 0.84 STSF) than FTI-P (rho = 0.71 ST, 0.53 STSF) or FTI (rho = 0.77 ST, 0.52 STSF); p < 0.0005 for each. STSF ablations had lower minimum catheter tip temperatures (25°C [interquartile range (IQR): 25°C to 27°C] vs. 35°C [IQR: 34°C to 36°C]; p < 0.005), and lesser impedance drop per FTI or AI (p < 0.005 for both). For STSF, impedance drop plateaued sooner than for ST with respect to FTI (184g.s vs. 463g.s) and AI (370 AI vs. 430 AI).

Conclusions: AI is a more complete ablation descriptor than is FTI or FTI-P, reflected by a stronger correlation with impedance drop. STSF ablations have lower impedance drop per AI or FTI than ST ablations do, suggesting different targets should be used if ablating guided by impedance drop with STSF. With ST, ablation beyond 430 AI provides minimal additional biophysical efficacy, suggesting an upper limit to use for clinical ablation.

Keywords: ablation index; atrial fibrillation ablation; contact force; force time integral; impedance; surround flow irrigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Atrial Fibrillation / surgery*
  • Biophysical Phenomena
  • Catheter Ablation / instrumentation*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / instrumentation*
  • Therapeutic Irrigation / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome