Canadian Cardiovascular Society Atrial Fibrillation Guidelines 2010: Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation/Atrial Flutter
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Catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation (AF) offers a promising treatment for the maintenance of sinus rhythm in patients for whom a rhythm control strategy is desired. While the precise mechanisms of AF are incompletely understood, there is substantial evidence that in many cases (particularly for paroxysmal AF), ectopic activity most commonly located in and around the pulmonary veins of the left atrium plays a central role in triggering and/or maintaining arrhythmic episodes. Catheter ablation involves electrically disconnecting the pulmonary veins from the rest of the left atrium to prevent AF from being triggered. Further substrate modification may be required in patients with more persistent AF. Successful ablation of AF has never been shown to alter mortality or obviate the need for oral anticoagulation; thus, the primary indication for this procedure should be improvement of symptoms caused by AF. The success rate of catheter ablation for AF is superior to the efficacy of antiarrhythmic drugs, but success is still in the range of 75%-90% after 2 procedures. Ablation is also associated with a complication rate of 2%-3%. Thus, ablation should primarily be used as a second-line therapy after failure of antiarrhythmic drugs. In contrast to AF, catheter ablation of atrial flutter has a higher success rate with a smaller incidence of complications. Thus, catheter ablation for atrial flutter may be considered a first-line alternative to antiarrhythmic drugs.
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