Are implantable cardiac monitors the ‘gold standard’ for atrial fibrillation detection? A prospective randomized trial comparing atrial fibrillation monitoring using implantable cardiac monitors and DDDRP permanent pacemakers in post atrial fibrillation ablation patients

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Implantable devices are widely accepted, but not proven, to be the most reliable monitoring method to assess atrial fibrillation (AF) therapies. We compared REVEAL®XT implantable cardiac monitors (ICMs) and permanent pacemakers (PPMs).

Methods and results

Fifty patients with paroxysmal AF were randomized to ICM or PPM implant 6 weeks prior to pulmonary vein isolation. Permanent pacemakers were programmed to monitoring only (ODO). Device downloads were performed at 0, 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. All patients underwent 7-day external loop recorder. Device ECGs and EGMs were compared for AF burden. A total of 20 744 and 11 238 arrhythmia episodes were identified in the ICM and PPM groups, respectively. Correct identification of AF was significantly better in the PPM group (97 vs. 55% P < 0.001). In the ICM group, 26% of ECGs were un-interpretable. Sensitivity and specificity for each episode of AF was significantly better in the PPM group (100 vs. 79% and 98 vs. 66%, respectively, P < 0.001). The positive predictive value for the detection of any AF was significantly better in the PPM than the ICM (100 vs. 58%, P = 0.03). The negative predictive value for the absence of all AF was not significantly different between the PPM and ICM (100% vs. 92%, P = 0.76).


Permanent pacemakers Holters are the most accurate method of evaluating arrhythmia burden and the therapeutic efficacy of novel AF therapies. ICM has a high degree of artefact, which reduces its specifity and sensitivity. Despite the deficiencies of ICM monitoring the negative predictive value of the ICM is satisfactory if zero AF burden is the aim of therapy.

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