Visualizing Intramyocardial Steam Formation with a Radiofrequency Ablation Catheter Incorporating Near-Field Ultrasound


  • Matthew Wright acknowledges financial support from the Department of Health via the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) comprehensive Biomedical Research Centre award to Guy's & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in partnership with King's College London and King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health. Erik Harks, Szabolcs Deladi, Steven Fokkenrood, Fei Zuo, Anneke van Dusschoten, Alexander F. Kolen, and Harm Belt are employees of Philips Research. Pierre Jaïs has received grant support from Philips Healthcare.

Visualizing Steam Pops


Steam pops are a risk of irrigated RF ablation even when limiting power delivery. There is currently no way to predict gas formation during ablation. It would be useful to visualize intramyocardial gas formation prior to a steam pop occurring using near-field ultrasound integrated into a RF ablation catheter.

Methods and Results

In an in vivo open-chest ovine model (n = 9), 86 lesions were delivered to the epicardial surface of the ventricles. Energy was delivered for 15–60 seconds, to achieve lesions with and without steam pops, based on modeling data. The ultrasound image was compared to a digital audio recording from within the pericardium by a blinded observer. Of 86 lesions, 28 resulted in an audible steam pop. For lesions that resulted in a steam pop compared to those that did not (n = 58), the mean power delivered was 8.0 ± 1.8 W versus 6.7 ± 2.0 W, P = 0.006. A change in US contrast due to gas formation in the tissue occurred in all lesions that resulted in a steam pop. In 4 ablations, a similar change in US contrast was observed in the tissue and RF delivery was stopped; in these cases, no pop occurred. The mean depth of gas formation was 0.9 ± 0.8 mm, which correlated with maximal temperature predicted by modeling. Changes in US contrast occurred 7.6 ± 7.2 seconds before the impedance rise and 7.9 ± 6.2 seconds (0.1–17.0) before an audible pop.


Integrated US in an RF ablation catheter is able to visualize gas formation intramyocardially several seconds prior to a steam pop occurring. This technology may help prevent complications arising from steam pops.