Objectives: We sought to 1) correlate conduction block in the isthmus of the right atrium between the inferior vena cava and the tricuspid annulus with the efficacy of catheter ablation of type I atrial flutter, and 2) characterize the effects of ablative lesions on the properties of isthmus conduction.
Background: There are few data on the mechanism of persistent suppression of recurrence of atrial flutter by catheter ablation.
Methods: Thirty-five patients with type I atrial flutter underwent catheter mapping and ablation. Radiofrequency lesions were applied in the isthmus. Transisthmus conduction before and after the lesions was assessed during atrial pacing in sinus rhythm from the medial and lateral margins of the isthmus at cycle lengths of 600, 400 and 300 ms and the native flutter cycle length. Isthmus conduction block was defined using multipolar recording techniques. There were three treatment groups: group 1 = radiofrequency energy applied during flutter, until termination (n = 14); group 2 = radiofrequency energy applied during atrial pacing in sinus rhythm from the proximal coronary sinus at a cycle length of 600 ms, until isthmus conduction block was observed (n = 14); and group 3 = radiofrequency energy applied until an initial flutter termination, after which further energy was applied during atrial pacing in sinus rhythm until isthmus conduction block was observed (n = 7).
Results: In group 1, after the initial flutter termination, isthmus conduction block was observed in 9 of the 14 patients. In each of these nine patients, flutter could not be reinitiated. In each of the remaining five patients, after the initial flutter termination, isthmus conduction was intact and atrial flutter could be reinitiated. Ultimately, successful ablation in each of these patients was also associated with isthmus conduction block. In groups 2 and 3, isthmus conduction block was achieved during radiofrequency energy application, and flutter could not subsequently be reinitiated. Before achieving conduction block, marked conduction slowing or intermittent block, or both, was observed in some patients. In some patients, isthmus conduction block was pacing rate dependent. In addition, recovery from conduction block was common in the laboratory and had a variable time course. At a mean follow-up interval of 10 months (range 1 to 21), the actuarial incidence of freedom from type I flutter was 80% (recurrence in three patients at 7 to 15 months).
Conclusions: Isthmus conduction block is associated with flutter ablation success. Conduction slowing or intermittent block, or both, in the isthmus can occur before achieving persistent block. Recovery of conduction after achieving block is common. Follow-up has revealed a low rate of flutter recurrence after achieving isthmus conduction block, whether the block was achieved in conjunction with termination of flutter.