Pulmonary vein isolation in 2012: is it necessary to perform a time consuming electrophysical mapping or should we focus on rapid and safe therapies? A retrospective analysis of different ablation tools

Petra Maagh, Thomas Butz, Gunnar Plehn, Arndt Christoph, Axel Meissner
International Journal of Medical Sciences 2013, 10 (1): 24-33

BACKGROUND: Pulmonary Vein Isolation (PVI) is evolving as an established treatment option in atrial fibrillation (AF). Different fluoroscopy-guided ablation devices exist either on the basis of expandable circumferential and mesh designs with mapping and ablation of pulmonary vein potentials, or of a balloon technology, a "single shot" device with a purely anatomical approach. Systematic comparisons between procedure duration (PD), fluoroscopy time (FT) and clinical outcome in using different ablation tools are lacking in the literature.

METHODS: In a single center retrospective analysis, 119 PVI procedures were performed between August 2008 and March 2011 in paroxysmal AF (PAF, 59.7%) and persistent AF (persAF, 40.3%) patients with mean age of 59.4±10.3 years and history of AF since 8.1±9.7 months. The PVI procedures were evaluated by comparing PD and FT using I) the High Density Mesh Mapper (HDMM), II) the High Density Mesh Ablator (HDMA), and III) the Arctic Front® Cryoballoon. The primary endpoints were FT and PD, the secondary endpoint was procedural safety and efficacy in short- and longterm follow-up.

RESULTS: The procedures performed for 119 patients (63.0 % male) included 42 PVIs with the HDMM (35.3 %), 47 with the HDMA (39.5 %) and 30 with the cryoballoon (25.2 %). Comparing the 30 first procedures in groups of 10 in the HDMM and HDMA group, PD and FT fell in the HDMM group (PD from 257.5 to 220.9 min and FT from 80.5 to 67.3 min, both p < 0.05) as well as in the HDMA group (PD from 182.9 to 147.2 min and FT from 41.02 to 29.1 min, both p < 0.05). In the cryoballoon group, there was a steep learning curve with a steady state after the first 10 procedures (PD and FT decreased significantly from 189.5 to 138.1 min and 36.9 to 27.3 min, p values 0.005 and 0.05 respectively). With respect to recurrence of AF in a 24 months follow up, the HDMM and cryoballoon group showed comparable results with ~72% of patients free of arrhythmias. None of the patients died due to severe complications, or suffered a hemodynamic relevant pericardial effusion and/or stroke. Impairment of the phrenic nerve was observed in three patients.

CONCLUSION: Use of the cryoballoon technology was associated with a steep learning curve and a reduced PD and FT; the long-term outcome was similar compared with the HDMM group. The efficacy and safety of the devices but also PD and FT should be respected as the strongest indicators of the quality of ablation. Further studies with long time follow-ups will show if the time for correct mapping of the PV potentials is a price we should be willing to pay or if we should adopt a "wait-and-see" attitude referring the AF recurrence.

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