Control of rapid ventricular response by radiofrequency catheter modification of the atrioventricular node in patients with medically refractory atrial fibrillation.
BACKGROUND: Pharmacological control of rapid ventricular response to atrial fibrillation may be difficult in some patients. Alternative treatments, including curative surgery or atrioventricular (AV) node ablation with pacemaker implantation, have significant potential morbidity. In view of evidence that dual AV nodal physiology may exist in a significant percentage of the population, even in those without AV nodal reentrant tachycardia, we postulated that control of ventricular response might be achieved by radiofrequency (RF) catheter ablation in the region of the AV nodal slow pathway with its short refractory period. METHODS AND RESULTS: Ten patients underwent attempted AV node modification using a 4-mm-tipped electrode catheter positioned in the middle or posterior septum, between the His bundle and coronary sinus ostium on the tricuspid valve annulus. RF energy was applied at 16 to 30 W for up to 60 seconds, until average ventricular response fell below 100 beats per minute. Reduction of maximal ventricular response below 120 beats per minute was confirmed with atropine 1 mg IV. If required, additional ablations were performed progressively more posteriorly up to the coronary sinus ostium. Patients with successful AV node modification were discharged off AV node-blocking drugs and followed in the clinic at regular intervals. Twenty-four-hour ambulatory ECG recordings and/or treadmill stress tests were obtained before and after ablation for statistical comparison of maximum ventricular rate. Resting average ventricular rate was determined during electrophysiology study before and after ablation. In 7 of 10 patients (70%), maximum ventricular rate was reduced from a mean of 164 +/- 12 to 123 +/- 16 beats per minute (P < .01) and average ventricular rate from a mean of 128 +/- 11 to 83 +/- 10 beats per minute after ablation. Mean minimum ventricular rate was 54 +/- 11 beats per minute after ablation. These 7 patients have remained symptom free from rapid ventricular response for a mean of 14 +/- 8 months (range, 1 to 22). Three remain off all AV node-blocking drugs, 3 remain on digoxin alone, which was previously ineffective, and 1 remains on a beta-blocker for angina. In the 3 patients who did not respond to AV node modification, complete AV node ablation and permanent pacemaker implantation was performed in 2 and DC cardioversion after amiodarone loading was performed in 1. CONCLUSIONS: RF catheter modification of AV node conduction is effective in controlling rapid ventricular response to atrial fibrillation in a significant percentage of medically refractory patients. A possible mechanism of RF modification of AV node conduction is AV nodal slow pathway ablation. Large-scale clinical trials will be needed to determine the overall efficacy and safety of this technique.
Feld, GK; Fleck, RP; Fujimura, O; Prothro, DL; Bahnson, TD; Ibarra, M
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