Introduction: Ablation of pulmonary veins (PV) is an established therapeutic option for patients with symptomatic drug-refractory paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF). Radiofrequency (RF) is currently the most widespread energy source for PV ablation. Cryothermal energy applied with a cryoballoon technique as an alternative has recently evolved.
Methods and Results: In a case-control setting, we compared 20 patients with paroxysmal AF who underwent their first PV ablation with the cryoballoon technique to 20 matched patients with conventional RF ablation. In the case of persistent electrical potentials after cryoballoon ablation, it was combined with ablation with a conventional cryocatheter. All patients performed daily event recording for 3 months after ablation procedure. Ablation parameters and success rate after 3 and 6 months were compared. In the cryoballoon group, the overall success rate was 55% (50% in the cryoballoon only group [14 patients] and 66% in the combination group [6 patients]), as opposed to the RF group with 45%. AF episode burden was lower after cryoballoon ablation. There was no significant difference between cryoballoon and RF ablation regarding procedure parameters. In the cryoballoon group, 3 phrenic nerve palsies occurred using the 23 mm balloon that resolved spontaneously.
Conclusion: PV ablation with the cryoballoon technique is feasible and seems to have a similar success rate in comparison to RF ablation. Procedure- and fluoroscopy duration are not longer than in conventional RF ablation.