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Association of catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation with mortality and stroke: A systematic review and meta-analysis.

BACKGROUND: Maintenance of sinus rhythm has been associated with lower mortality, but whether atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation per se benefits hard outcomes such as mortality and stroke is still debated.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether AF ablation is associated with a reduction in all-cause mortality and stroke compared with medical therapy alone.

METHODS: Literature search looking for both randomized and observational studies comparing AF catheter ablation vs. medical management. Data pooled using random-effects. Risk ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) used as a measure of treatment effect. The primary and secondary outcomes were all-cause mortality and occurrence of cerebrovascular events during follow-up, respectively.

RESULTS: Thirty studies were eligible for inclusion, comprising 78,966 patients (25,129 receiving AF ablation and 53,837 on medical treatment) and 233,990patient-years of follow-up. The pooled data of studies revealed that ablation was associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality: 5.7% vs. 17.9%; RR=0.44, 95% CI 0.32-0.62, p<0.001. In a sensitivity analysis by study design, a survival benefit of AF ablation was seen in randomized studies, with no heterogeneity (mortality risk 4.2% vs. 8.9%; RR=0.55, 95% CI 0.39-0.79, p=0.001, I2 =0%), and also in observational studies, but with marked heterogeneity (6.1% vs. 18.3%; RR=0.39, 95% CI 0.26-0.59, p<0.001, I2 =95%). The mortality benefit in randomized studies was mainly driven by trials performed in patients with left ventricular (LV) dysfunction and heart failure. The pooled risk of a cerebrovascular event was lower in patients receiving AF ablation (2.3% vs. 5.5%; RR=0.57, 95% CI 0.46-0.70, p<0.001, I2 =62%), but no difference was seen in randomized trials (2.2% vs. 2.1%; RR=0.94, 95% CI 0.46-1.94, p=0.87, I2 =0%).

CONCLUSIONS: Ablation of atrial fibrillation associates with a survival benefit compared with medical treatment alone, although evidence is restricted to the setting of heart failure and LV systolic dysfunction.

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