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Catheter-based pulmonary vein isolation fails to prevent transient atrial arrhythmogenic changes related to acute obstructive respiratory events in a porcine model.

AIMS: Pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) is the corner stone of modern rhythm control strategies in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is prevalent in more than 50% of patients undergoing AF ablation and studies have indicated a greater recurrence rate after PVI in patients with SDB. Herein, we study the effect of catheter-based PVI on AF in a pig model for SDB.

METHODS AND RESULTS: In 11 sedated spontaneously breathing pigs, obstructive apnoeas were simulated by 75 seconds of intermittent negative upper airway pressure (INAP) applied by a negative pressure device connected to the endotracheal tube. INAPs were performed before and after PVI. AF-inducibility and atrial effective refractory periods (aERP) were determined before and during INAP by programmed atrial stimulation. PVI prolonged the aERP by 48 ± 27 ms in the right atrium (RA) (p < 0.0001) and by 40 ± 34 ms in the left atrium (LA) (p = 0.0004). Following PVI, AF-inducibility dropped from 28 ± 26% to 0% (p = 0.0009). INAP was associated with a transient aERP-shortening (ΔaERP) in both atria, which was not prevented by PVI (INAP indued ΔaERP after PVI in the RA: -57 ± 34 ms, p = 0.0002; in the LA: -42 ± 24 ms, p < 0.0001). INAP was associated with a transient increase in AF-inducibility (from 28 ± 26% to 69 ± 21%; p = 0.0008), which was not attenuated by PVI (INAP-associated AF-inducibility after PVI: 58 ± 33% (p = 0.5)).

CONCLUSION: Transient atrial arrhythmogenic changes related to acute obstructive respiratory events are not prevented by electrical isolation of the pulmonary veins, which partially explains the increased AF recurrence in patients with SDB after PVI procedures.

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