This study describes 5-year follow-up results of catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (AF).
Long-term efficacy following catheter ablation of AF remains unknown.
A total of 100 patients (86 men, 14 women), age 55.7 ± 9.6 years, referred to our center for a first AF ablation (63% paroxysmal; 3.5 ± 1.4 prior ineffective antiarrhythmic agents) were followed for 5 years. Complete success was defined as absence of any AF or atrial tachycardia recurrence (clinical or by 24-h Holter monitoring) lasting ≥30 s.
Arrhythmia-free survival rates after a single catheter ablation procedure were 40%, 37%, and 29% at 1, 2, and 5 years, respectively, with most recurrences over the first 6 months. Patients with long-standing persistent AF experienced a higher recurrence rate than those with paroxysmal or persistent forms (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.9, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.0 to 3.5; p = 0.0462). In all, 175 procedures were performed, with a median of 2 per patient. Arrhythmia-free survival following the last catheter ablation procedure was 87%, 81%, and 63% at 1, 2, and 5 years, respectively. Valvular heart disease (HR: 6.0, 95% CI: 2.0 to 17.6; p = 0.0012) and nonischemic dilated cardiomyopathy (HR: 34.0, 95% CI: 6.3 to 182.1; p < 0.0001) independently predicted recurrences. Major complications (cardiac tamponade requiring drainage) occurred in 3 patients (3%).
In selected patients with AF, a catheter ablation strategy with repeat intervention as necessary provides acceptable long-term relief. Although most recurrences transpire over the first 6 to 12 months, a slow but steady decline in arrhythmia-free survival is noted thereafter.