Feasibility of percutaneous epicardial mapping and ablation for refractory atrial fibrillation: Insights into substrate and lesion transmurality

Heart Rhythm. 2019 Aug;16(8):1151-1159. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2019.02.018. Epub 2019 Feb 16.


Background: Recurrences of atrial fibrillation (AF) after ablation have been attributed to conduction gaps and nontransmural ablation lesions.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility of adjunctive percutaneous mapping of the epicardial regions of the left atrium to characterize the transmural extent of substrate and ablation lesions.

Methods: Between 2014 and 2018, combined epicardial and endocardial mapping of AF was performed in 18 patients via an inferior subxiphoid percutaneous approach (16 with previously failed ablation procedures and 2 patients with long-standing persistent AF) at 2 centers. Epicardial substrate mapping was compared with endocardial mapping to assess transmural uniformity.

Results: Of 18 patients, 4 (22%) demonstrated nontransmural atrial low-voltage regions with relative epicardial sparing in the left atrial posterior wall. Transmural isolation of the posterior wall was achieved after an endocardial "box" lesion set in 6/9 (67%), guided by epicardial voltage data, while epicardial and endocardial dissociation during AF was observed in 1 patient. In 3 patients, epicardial capture along the endocardial pulmonary vein lesion set despite endocardial capture loss and bidirectional block was observed. Two cases of mitral flutter were terminated from the epicardium. A balloon was positioned in the pericardial space in 6 patients for esophageal protection during ablation.

Conclusion: A percutaneous epicardial approach for mapping and ablation of the left atrium is feasible in the electrophysiology laboratory during endocardial catheter ablation for AF and may be useful as an adjunctive approach in refractory cases. High-density epicardial mapping can provide direct evidence of nonuniform lesion and substrate transmurality of the human left atrium before and after ablation.

Keywords: Ablation; Atrial fibrillation; Epicardium; Mapping; Posterior wall.

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / diagnosis*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / surgery
  • Body Surface Potential Mapping / methods*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pericardium
  • Prognosis
  • Reproducibility of Results