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Twenty-year experience of atrial fibrillation ablation: a single-centre cohort study.

AIMS: While several studies in the literature have reported results of catheter ablation of AF, few is known regarding outcome for more than 10 years.

METHODS AND RESULTS: The complete population of patients who underwent AF ablation in the years 2002-2021 in the department of cardiology of the hospital of Reggio Emilia has been analysed. The last follow-up was made in the second half of 2022. During this period the technique of ablation remained relatively unchanged as well the physicians performing ablation. Primary endpoint was the recurrence of symptomatic AF, defined as AF that caused symptoms that were defined by the patient as able to alter their quality of life. 669 patients underwent catheter ablation and 618 were followed until 2022. Median age of the patients was 58 ± 9 years and 521 (78%) were male. There were 407 (61%) of patients with paroxysmal AF, 167 (25%) with persistent AF and 95 (14%) with long-lasting AF. A total of 838 procedures were performed, with a mean of 1.25 per patient. 163 (26%) patients had 2 procedures and 6 had 3 ablations. Periprocedural complications occurred in 4.8% of procedures. Follow-up data were available for 618 patients (92.4%). The median follow-up duration was 6.6 years (IQR 3.2-10.8). The estimated recurrence rate of symptomatic AF was 26% at 10 years, 54% at 15 years and 82% at 20 years. The recurrence rate was similar in patients who had performed one procedure and in those who had performed 2 or 3 procedures. Progression to permanent AF occurred in 112 patients (18%). The major events that occurred during the follow-up consisted of total mortality in 4.5%, heart failure in 3.1% and TIA/stroke in 2.4%.

CONCLUSION: Symptomatic AF tends to recur during long-term follow-up despite one or more procedures. Catheter ablation seems able to reduce the rate of symptomatic recurrences and to delay the time of their occurrence. These findings are consistent with the knowledge that an age-dependent progressive structural atriomiopathy is the basis for the development of AF.

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