Background: Vagal hyperactivity is directly related to several clinical conditions as reflex/functional bradyarrhythmias and vagal atrial fibrillation (AF). Cardioneuroablation provides therapeutic vagal denervation through endocardial radiofrequency ablation for these cases. The main challenges are neuromyocardium interface identification and the denervation control and validation. The finding that the AF-Nest (AFN) ablation eliminates the atropine response and decreases RR variability suggests that they are related to the vagal innervation.
Method: Prospective, controlled, longitudinal, nonrandomized study enrolling 62 patients in 2 groups: AFN group (AFN group 32 patients) with functional or reflex bradyarrhythmias or vagal AF treated with AFN ablation and a control group (30 patients) with anomalous bundles, ventricular premature beats, atrial flutter, atrioventricular nodal reentry, and atrial tachycardia, treated with conventional ablation (non-AFN ablation). In AFN group, ablation delivered at AFN detected by fragmentation/fractionation of the endocardial electrograms and by 3-dimensional anatomic location of the ganglionated plexus. Vagal response was evaluated before, during, and postablation by 5 s noncontact vagal stimulation at the jugular foramen, through the internal jugular veins (extracardiac vagal stimulation [ECVS]), analyzing 15 s mean heart rate, longest RR, pauses, and atrioventricular block. All patients had current guidelines arrhythmia ablation indication.
Results: Preablation ECVS induced sinus pauses, asystole, and transient atrioventricular block in both groups showing a strong vagal response (P=0.96). Postablation ECVS in the AFN group showed complete abolishment of the cardiac vagal response in all cases (pre/postablation ECVS=P<0.0001), demonstrating robust vagal denervation. However, in the control group, vagal response remained practically unchanged postablation (P=0.35), showing that non-AFN ablation promotes no significant denervation.
Conclusions: AFN ablation causes significant vagal denervation. Non-AFN ablation causes no significant vagal denervation. These results suggest that AFNs are intrinsically related to vagal innervation. ECVS was fundamental to stepwise vagal denervation validation during cardioneuroablation. Visual Overview A visual overview is available for this article.
Keywords: atrial fibrillation; autonomic denervation; cardiac arrhythmias; radiofrequency ablation; syncope; vagus nerve stimulation.
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