Predictive value of atrial fibrillation during the postradiofrequency ablation blanking period

Heart Rhythm. 2021 Mar;18(3):366-373. doi: 10.1016/j.hrthm.2020.11.020. Epub 2020 Nov 24.


Background: Recurrent arrhythmia following catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation (AF) may present early, during a standard 3-month blanking period. Early recurrence has been correlated to late recurrence, but the degree to which its absence predicts longer-term success has not been quantified.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to explore and quantify the relationship between early and late arrhythmia recurrence, specifically the negative predictive value, that is, the degree to which absence of blanking period recurrence predicts absence of late recurrence.

Methods: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis were conducted using statistical methods of a diagnostic test accuracy review. Studies of AF ablation using point-by-point radiofrequency, with repeated monitoring of arrhythmia recurrence including asymptomatic recurrence, and with separate data by AF type, were eligible.

Results: Nine studies met the prespecified eligibility criteria. For paroxysmal AF, 89% (confidence interval [CI] 82%-94%) of patients free from early recurrence remained free from late recurrence. The estimate for persistent AF was similar (91%; CI 75%-97%). This finding was robust in sensitivity analyses. Patients with early recurrence had a wider range of likely outcomes with longer-term follow-up.

Conclusion: Freedom from AF recurrence during the blanking period is highly predictive of longer-term success in catheter ablation. Clinical trials in this area may be able to leverage these findings to more quickly assess the potential utility of new ablation technologies and methods, for example, by using early surrogate measures of success.

Keywords: Atrial fibrillation; Catheter ablation; Predictive value of tests.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Atrial Fibrillation / physiopathology
  • Atrial Fibrillation / surgery*
  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Period
  • Pulmonary Veins / surgery*
  • Recurrence