The change in circulating galectin-3 predicts absence of atrial fibrillation after thoracoscopic surgical ablation

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Galectin-3 (Gal-3) is an important mediator of cardiac fibrosis, particularly in heart failure. Increased Gal-3 concentration (Gal-3), associated with increased risk of developing atrial fibrillation (AF), may reflect atrial fibrotic remodelling underlying AF progression. We aimed to investigate whether the change in serum Gal-3 reflects alterations of the arrhythmogenic atrial substrate following thoracoscopic AF surgery, and predicts absence of AF.

Methods and results

Consecutive patients undergoing thoracoscopic AF surgery were included. Left atrial appendages (LAAs) and serum were collected during surgery and serum again 6 months thereafter. Gal-3 was determined in tissue and serum. Interstitial collagen in the LAA was quantified using Picrosirius red staining. Ninety-eight patients (76% male, mean age 60 ± 9 years) underwent thoracoscopic surgery for advanced AF. Patients with increased Gal-3 after ablation compared to baseline had a higher recurrence rate compared to patients with decreased or unchanged Gal-3 (HR 2.91, P = 0.014). These patients more frequently had persistent AF, longer AF duration and thick atrial collagen strands (P = 0.049). At baseline, Gal-3 was similar between patients with and without AF recurrence: 14.8 ± 3.9 µg/L vs. 13.7 ± 3.7 µg/L, respectively in serum (P = 0.16); 94.5 ± 19.4 µg/L vs. 93.3 ± 30.8µg/L, respectively in atrial myocardium (P = 0.83). There was no correlation between serum Gal-3 and left atrial Gal-3 (P = 0.20), nor between serum Gal-3 and the percentage of fibrosis in LAA (P = 0.18).


The change of circulating Gal-3, rather than its baseline value, predicts AF recurrence after thoracoscopic ablation. Patients in whom Gal-3 increases after ablation have a high recurrence rate reflecting ongoing profibrotic signalling, irrespective of arrhythmia continuation.

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