Introduction: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of radiofrequency (RF) catheter ablation of common atrial flutter and to determine the optimum target sites in a large series of patients. Three different approaches were used to target the ablation site. The first used a combined anatomic and electrophysiologic approach, whereas the second and the third approaches relied primarily on anatomic guidelines to target the critical area in the atrial flutter reentrant circuit located in the low right atrium.
Background: Recent studies report the efficacy of RF current application in the low right atrial region to interrupt and prevent recurrences of common atrial flutter using either anatomic or electrophysiologic targets. However, larger groups of patients are required to confirm the efficacy of this technique and to specify the target sites.
Methods and results: Two hundred consecutive patients with drug-resistant common atrial flutter were studied. In the first 50 patients, target sites were localized using both anatomic landmarks and electrophysiologic parameters. The anatomic landmarks were area 1 between the tricuspid valve and inferior vena cava orifice; area 2 between the tricuspid valve and coronary sinus ostium; and area 3 between the inferior vena and coronary sinus. The electrophysiologic criterion was to ablate when there was an atrial electrogram occurring during the plateau phase (preceding F wave). The first targeted area was that giving the more stable catheter position. In the following 30 patients, we assessed the effect of RF energy application in a single line to area 1 in the first 10 patients, area 2 in the next 10, and area 3 in the last 10 patients. In the last 120 patients, RF energy was applied only in area 1 using repeated applications. RF energy of 12 to 30 W, or that achieving a temperature of 70 degrees C, was applied for 60 to 90 seconds at each site. The endpoint of the ablation procedure was interruption and noninducibility of common atrial flutter in the first 110 patients and additional isthmal block in 48 of the last 90 patients. Overall, atrial flutter was interrupted and rendered noninducible after a single session in 191 (95%) patients and could not be interrupted in 9 (4.5%) patients. The mean number of RF applications was 12 +/- 8. After a mean follow-up of 24 +/- 9 months, recurrences occurred in 31 (15.5%) patients, 26 of whom underwent a successful second or third session without further recurrences of atrial flutter. Atrial fibrillation not documented before the ablation was detected in 11 patients. On a retrospective analysis of the final successful site in the first group of 50 patients, the location was in area 1 in 39% of patients; area 2 in 36% of patients, and area 3 in 25% of patients. Atrial electrograms recorded at these sites showed a single spike pattern in 46% of patients, and double spike pattern (28%) or fractioned electrogram in 26% patients. When lines of RF lesions were placed at several sites, they produced a success rate of 70%, 40%, and 10% at areas 1, 2, and 3 respectively. In the last series of 120 patients, the procedure was successful in 119 patients: 92% of whom were successfully treated only by a linear lesion between the tricuspid annulus isthmus and the inferior vena cava, and the other 8% by additional applications near the coronary sinus ostium. No complications were observed.
Conclusions: RF catheter ablation of atrial flutter can be done with a high success rate and is safe. The highest success rate is achieved with RF energy applied in the isthmus between the inferior vena cava orifice and the tricuspid valve. However, 15.5% of patients need multiple sessions to achieve success because of recurrence of flutter. Further follow-up is needed to evaluate the long-term effects of this procedure.