Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials of Atrial Fibrillation Ablation With Pulmonary Vein Isolation Versus Without

JACC Clin Electrophysiol. 2019 Aug;5(8):968-976. doi: 10.1016/j.jacep.2019.05.012. Epub 2019 Jul 31.


Objectives: This meta-analysis examined the ability of pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) to prevent atrial fibrillation in randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in which the patients not receiving PVI nevertheless underwent a procedure.

Background: PVI is a commonly used procedure for the treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF), and its efficacy has usually been judged against therapy with anti-arrhythmic drugs in open-label trials. There have been several RCTs of AF ablation in which both arms received an ablation, but the difference between the treatment arms was inclusion or omission of PVI. These trials of an ablation strategy with PVI versus an ablation strategy without PVI may provide a more rigorous method for evaluating the efficacy of PVI.

Methods: Medline and Cochrane databases were searched for RCTs comparing ablation including PVI with ablation excluding PVI. The primary efficacy endpoint was freedom from atrial fibrillation (AF) and atrial tachycardia at 12 months. A random-effects meta-analysis was performed using the restricted maximum likelihood estimator.

Results: Overall, 6 studies (n = 610) met inclusion criteria. AF recurrence was significantly lower with an ablation including PVI than an ablation without PVI (RR: 0.54; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.33 to 0.89; p = 0.0147; I2 = 79.7%). Neither the type of AF (p = 0.48) nor the type of non-PVI ablation (p = 0.21) was a significant moderator of the effect size. In 3 trials the non-PVI ablation procedure was performed in both arms, whereas PVI was performed in only 1 arm. In these studies, AF recurrence was significantly lower when PVI was included (RR: 0.32; 95% CI: 0.14 to 0.73; p = 0.007, I2 78%).

Conclusions: In RCTs where both arms received an ablation, and therefore an expectation amongst patients and doctors of benefit, being randomized to PVI had a striking effect, reducing AF recurrence by a half.

Keywords: ablation; atrial fibrillation; pulmonary vein isolation.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation* / adverse effects
  • Catheter Ablation* / methods
  • Catheter Ablation* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Veins / surgery*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Recurrence