The low efficacy rates reported for conventional catheter ablation of longstanding persistent atrial fibrillation (LPAF) have led to the development of alternative techniques such as minimal invasive surgical ablation, aiming for durable and contiguous transmural lesions. The aim was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of total thoracoscopic epicardial left atrial ablation (TELA-AF) procedures in a prospective study of severely symptomatic patients with either drug-resistant AF and/or failed attempts of catheter ablation.Methods and results
The TELA-AF surgical technique includes pulmonary vein isolation, left atrial (LA) ‘box lesion’, and partial vagal denervation. The LA appendage was excluded if deemed safe. Patients were followed with clinical evaluations and 12-lead electrocardiograms at 3, 6, and 12 months after the surgical intervention, complemented with a 7-day Holter monitoring after 6 and 12 months. Sixty patients, of whom 38 (63%) suffered from LPAF, underwent TELA-AF between November 2008 and December 2010. One patient with LPAF was lost to follow-up. At 12-month follow-up, 55/59 patients (93%) were free from atrial fibrillation (AF), while 7/59 patients (12%) suffered from recurrent LA tachycardia. Among patients with LPAF, 32/37 (86%) maintained sinus rhythm after 12 months. Adverse events included four perioperative bleedings requiring conversion to sternotomy in three cases, two ischaemic strokes and one transient ischaemic attack.Conclusion
The total thoracoscopic surgical ablation procedure is highly effective even in patients with LPAF, and it seems safe. The high rate of iatrogenic LA re-entrant tachycardia, however, warrants further improvement of the technique.