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Keywords:

  • atrial fibrillation;
  • arrhythmia;
  • catheter ablation;
  • cardiomyopathy;
  • congestive;
  • myocardial diseases

Background: Evaluation of ventricular rate control in atrial fibrillation (AF) can be difficult, and the presence of an AF-induced ventricular cardiomyopathy due to intermittent poor rate control or other causes may be underestimated. The outcome with AF ablation in patients with a decreased left ventricular ejection fraction (LVEF) may provide insight into this important clinical issue.

Objective: To determine the effect of pulmonary vein isolation on LVEF in patients with AF and decreased LVEF (≤50%).

Methods: Ablation consisted of proximal isolation of arrhythmogenic pulmonary veins (PVs) and elimination of non-PV triggers. LVEF was determined within 24 hours after ablation and again at up to 6 months follow-up. Transtelephonic monitoring was performed routinely for 2–3 weeks prior to ablation, at 6 weeks, and 6 months post and with symptoms following ablation. AF control was defined as freedom from AF or marked (>90%) reduction in AF burden on or off previously ineffective antiarrhythmic medication.

Results: AF ablation was performed in 366 patients and 67 (18%) patients had decreased LV function with a mean LVEF of 42 ± 9%. An average of 3.4 ± 0.9 PVs were isolated. AF control in the depressed LVEF group compared favorably with the normal EF group (86% vs. 87% P = NS), although more redo procedures were required (1.6 ± 0.8 vs 1.3 ± 0.6 procedures; P ≤ 0.05). Only 15 of 67 patients (22%) with decreased LVEF had shown tachycardia (>100 bpm) on repeated preablation ECG recordings during AF. In the decreased LVEF group, the LVEF increased from 42 ± 9% to 56 ± 8% (P < 0.001) after ablation.

Conclusions: Patients with AF and decreased LVEF undergoing AF ablation have similar success to patients with normal LVEF and have improvement in LVEF after ablation. These results suggest the presence of a reversible AF-induced ventricular cardiomyopathy in many patients with AF and depressed LV function. The presence of under-recognized and reversible cardiomyopathy even when tachycardia is not persistent is important to recognize.