Catheter ablation of inducible atrial flutter, in combination with atrial pacing and antiarrhythmic drugs ("hybrid therapy") improves rhythm control in patients with refractory atrial fibrillation

Atul Prakash, Sanjeev Saksena, Ryszard B Krol, Artur Filipecki, George Philip
Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology: An International Journal of Arrhythmias and Pacing 2002, 6 (2): 165-72

UNLABELLED: Atrial flutter or tachycardia may coexist with atrial fibrillation [AF] and can be treated with ablation techniques in attempt to reduce the total AF burden. The role of ablation of latent atrial tachyarrhythmias elicited at electrophysiologic study in conjunction with atrial pacing and antiarrhythmic drugs in patients with refractory AF has not been evaluated. We evaluated the efficacy of catheter ablation of electrically induced atrial flutter or atrial tachycardia in improving rhythm control in patients with refractory AF.

METHODS: Consecutive patients with refractory AF, and spontaneous atrial flutter (Group 1) or without spontaneous atrial flutter (Group 2) underwent programmed stimulation in a baseline drug-free state. All patients had electrically induced atrial flutter or tachycardia. Radiofrequency ablation of the arrhythmia substrate was performed in all patients. Primary endpoints evaluated for patient outcome in both groups included maintenance of rhythm control and freedom from recurrent atrial tachyarrhythmias.

RESULTS: Forty-three patients, with a mean age of 66 +/- 13 years were studied. Group 1 consisted of 22 patients while Group 2 had 21 patients. Ablation of the tricuspid valve-inferior venacaval isthmus was performed in 41 patients who had common atrial flutter induced at electrophysiologic study. Ablation of other atrial sites was performed in 8 patients with induced atypical flutter and 4 patients with induced atrial tachycardia. Ten of these patients had ablation of more than one arrhythmia. 17 patients (40%) had atrial pacing instituted and 28 patients remained on a class 1/3 antiarrhythmic drug. During a mean follow-up of 26 +/- 14 months, 33 patients (82.5%) remained in rhythm control. Actuarial analysis showed 96% of patients in rhythm control at 6 months, 94% at 12 months, and 90% at 24 months. Freedom from symptomatic AF recurrence was 64% at 6 months, 58% at 12 months, and 42% at 24 months. The outcome for both of these endpoints was similar for Group 1 and Group 2 (p = NS). The AF free interval increased significantly from 7+/- 9 days to 172 +/- 121 days (p < 0.01) after ablation. This increase was again similar in both the groups. In the 14 patients were who did not receive atrial pacing and who remained on the same class 1/3 antiarrhythmic drug, the AF free interval increased from 18 +/- 17 days to 212+/- 102 days (p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: We conclude that electrophysiologic studies can elicit latent atrial flutter or tachycardia in patients with refractory AF without spontaneous monomorphic atrial tachyarrhythmias. Catheter ablation of electrically induced atrial flutter or tachycardia either alone, or with atrial pacing and with antiarrhythmic drug may improve rhythm control and reduce AF recurrences. This is similar in patients with and without spontaneous atrial flutter and refractory AF.

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