Importance: Ablation of persistent atrial fibrillation (AF) remains a challenge. Left atrial fibrosis plays an important role in the pathophysiology of AF and has been associated with poor procedural outcomes.
Objective: To investigate the efficacy and adverse events of targeting atrial fibrosis detected on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in reducing atrial arrhythmia recurrence in persistent AF.
Design, setting, and participants: The Efficacy of Delayed Enhancement-MRI-Guided Fibrosis Ablation vs Conventional Catheter Ablation of Atrial Fibrillation trial was an investigator-initiated, multicenter, randomized clinical trial involving 44 academic and nonacademic centers in 10 countries. A total of 843 patients with symptomatic or asymptomatic persistent AF and undergoing AF ablation were enrolled from July 2016 to January 2020, with follow-up through February 19, 2021.
Interventions: Patients with persistent AF were randomly assigned to pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) plus MRI-guided atrial fibrosis ablation (421 patients) or PVI alone (422 patients). Delayed-enhancement MRI was performed in both groups before the ablation procedure to assess baseline atrial fibrosis and at 3 months postablation to assess for ablation scar.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary end point was time to first atrial arrhythmia recurrence after a 90-day blanking period postablation. The primary safety composite outcome was defined by the occurrence of 1 or more of the following events within 30 days postablation: stroke, PV stenosis, bleeding, heart failure, or death.
Results: Among 843 patients who were randomized (mean age 62.7 years; 178 [21.1%] women), 815 (96.9%) completed the 90-day blanking period and contributed to the efficacy analyses. There was no significant difference in atrial arrhythmia recurrence between groups (fibrosis-guided ablation plus PVI patients, 175 [43.0%] vs PVI-only patients, 188 [46.1%]; hazard ratio [HR], 0.95 [95% CI, 0.77-1.17]; P = .63). Patients in the fibrosis-guided ablation plus PVI group experienced a higher rate of safety outcomes (9 [2.2%] vs 0 in PVI group; P = .001). Six patients (1.5%) in the fibrosis-guided ablation plus PVI group had an ischemic stroke compared with none in PVI-only group. Two deaths occurred in the fibrosis-guided ablation plus PVI group, and the first one was possibly related to the procedure.
Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with persistent AF, MRI-guided fibrosis ablation plus PVI, compared with PVI catheter ablation only, resulted in no significant difference in atrial arrhythmia recurrence. Findings do not support the use of MRI-guided fibrosis ablation for the treatment of persistent AF.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02529319.