Modification of AV nodal conduction by means of radiofrequency catheter ablation has become the accepted mode of therapy for patients with symptomatic AV nodal re-entry tachycardias (AVN-RT). The published results demonstrate high success rates and a low incidence of severe complications. However, published series have primarily dealt with relatively young patient populations. Little is known about the efficacy and risks of radiofrequency catheter ablation of AVN-RT in the elderly.Methods
We retrospectively analysed our data of 404 patients who underwent a catheter ablation therapy for AVN-RT between 1992 and June 1997. Nine patients were excluded from further analysis because of presence of more than one tachycardia mechanism. The ablation procedure was performed at the time of the diagnostic electrophysiologic study.Results
The mean age of 395 patients undergoing catheter ablation for AVN-RT was 52.3 years (19–90 years); 85 patients were 65 years old or older. Compared with the younger subgroup, these elderly patients (mean age 70.4 years) more often had organic heart disease (coronary heart disease with or without myocardial infarction 19.3% versus 2.6%; P < 0.02), more often had syncopes or presyncopes with AVN-RT (43.2% versus 29.8%; P < 0.05), had more hospitalisations and emergency treatments because of their symptoms (56.8% versus 39.5%; P < 0.05) although the cycle length of the induced AVN-RT was significantly shorter in the younger patient group (325 ms versus 368 ms; P < 0.001). Slow pathway ablation was performed in 94% of the young and 82% of the elderly (P < 0.001). In 1 7.5% of the elderly patients versus 6.5% of the young (P < 0.05) the fast pathway approach was chosen as the first therapy or tried after an unsuccessful approach to the slow pathway. The overall success rate (96.8% in the young and 95.3% in the elderly) and the recurrence rate (5.8% in the elderly versus 4.9% in the young) were similar in both patient groups. There were no differences regarding the total procedure of fluoroscopy time, radiation exposure or the incidence of high-degree AV-block necessitating pacemaker implantation (2.3% in the elderly versus 1.6% in the young).Conclusions
In patients older than 65 years, AVN-RT may lead to severe, sometimes life-threatening symptoms, despite the fact that the tachycardia is not as fast as in younger patients. Radiofrequency catheter ablation can be performed effectively and safely and should be offered to these patients as first-choice therapy.