Five-year efficacy of pulmonary vein antrum isolation as a primary ablation strategy for atrial fibrillation: a single-centre cohort study

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Pulmonary vein antrum isolation (PVAI) is the cornerstone of atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation. There is an ongoing discussion on whether and when to add substrate modification to PVAI. This study evaluates (1) long-term efficacy of PVAI as a primary ablation strategy in all patients independently from AF type and (2) predictors of arrhythmia recurrence.

Methods and results

A total of 509 consecutive patients (mean age 57 years, 38.9% non-paroxysmal AF) with AF underwent PVAI. In redo procedures, ablation was restricted to re-pulmonary vein (PV) isolation in case of PV reconnection. If the PVs were found to be isolated, substrate modification was performed. In total, 774 procedures were performed. Mean follow-up duration after the first and last ablation was, respectively, 66 ± 23 and 55 ± 25 months. A single PVAI was sufficient in restoring and maintaining long-term sinus rhythm in 41.3% (n = 210) of patients. Multiple procedures (mean 1.5) with re-PV isolation increased long-term success to 58.3% (n = 297). Additional substrate modification (n = 70) increased success to 62.5% (n = 318). After the last ablation, 87.5% of patients experienced success or significant clinical improvement on or off antiarrhythmic drugs. The incidence of left-sided atrial flutter or atrial tachycardia was 5% after PVAI and increased to 32% after additional substrate modification. Independent predictors for arrhythmia recurrence after the last ablation were non-paroxysmal AF, female sex, body mass index, hypertension, and AF duration.


Five-year freedom of atrial tachyarrhythmia could be achieved by PVAI as primary ablation strategy in 58.3% of patients. Additional substrate modification only moderately increased overall success.

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