Late results after stand-alone surgical ablation for atrial fibrillation

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2021 Apr 17;S0022-5223(21)00668-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2021.03.109. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objectives: Stand-alone surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation is indicated in patients with refractory atrial fibrillation who have failed medical or catheter-based ablation. Few reports of late outcomes after stand-alone surgical ablation exist using comprehensive follow-up with strict definitions of success. This study examined our late outcomes of the stand-alone Cox-Maze IV procedure.

Methods: Between January 2003 and December 2019, 236 patients underwent a stand-alone Cox-Maze IV for refractory atrial fibrillation. Freedom from atrial tachyarrhythmias was assessed by electrocardiography, Holter, or pacemaker interrogation for up to 10 years, with a mean follow-up of 4.8 ± 3.5 years. Rhythm outcomes were compared in multiple subgroups. Factors associated with recurrence were determined using Fine-Gray regression, allowing for death as the competing risk.

Results: The majority of patients (176/236, 75%) had nonparoxysmal atrial fibrillation. Median duration of preoperative atrial fibrillation was 6.2 years (interquartile range, 3-11). Fifty-nine percent of patients (140/236) failed 1 or more prior catheter-based ablation. Thirteen patients (6%) experienced a major complication. There was no 30-day mortality. Freedom from atrial tachyarrhythmias was 94% (187/199), 89% (81/91), and 77% (24/31) at 1, 5, and 10 years, respectively. There was no difference in freedom from atrial tachyarrhythmias between patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation versus nonparoxysmal atrial fibrillation (P > .05) or those undergoing sternotomy versus a minimally invasive approach (P > .05). Increased left atrial size and number of catheter ablations were associated with late atrial fibrillation recurrence. For patients who experienced any atrial tachyarrhythmia recurrence, the median number of recurrences was 1.5 (1.0-3.0).

Conclusions: The stand-alone Cox-Maze IV had excellent late efficacy at maintaining sinus rhythm in patients with symptomatic, refractory atrial fibrillation, with low morbidity and no mortality. The Cox-Maze IV, in contrast to catheter-based ablation, was equally effective in patients with paroxysmal and nonparoxysmal atrial fibrillation.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; cox maze procedure; long-term outcomes; surgical ablation.