Conference Coverage

Epicardial GP ablation of no benefit in advanced atrial fibrillation

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An evolving field

AF ablation is an evolving field, and we are constantly trying to think of new ways to improve our success rates. Some of the things we try turn out to be advantageous and others do not. Negative studies like this have a very important clinical impact; they help us figure out what road to take.

Dr. Thomas Deering

Dr. Thomas Deering is chief of the Arrhythmia Center at the Piedmont Heart Institute in Atlanta, where he is also chairman of the Executive Council and the Clinical Centers for Excellence. He moderated Dr. de Groot’s presentation, and wasn’t involved in the work.




San Francisco – Routine ganglionic plexus ablation increases risk and offers no clinical benefit in patients undergoing thoracoscopic surgery for advanced atrial fibrillation, according to a randomized Dutch trial.

“Most surgeons who do epicardial ablation do GP [ganglionic plexus] ablation because of the assumption that they are doing something good; that assumption is wrong. GP ablation should not be performed in patients with advanced AF [atrial fibrillation],” said lead investigator Dr. Joris de Groot, a cardiologist at the University of Amsterdam.

Dr. Joris de Groot

Dr. Joris de Groot

Following pulmonary vein isolation (PVI), 117 patients were randomized to GP ablation, and 123 to no GP ablation. GP ablation eliminated 100% of evoked vagal responses; vagal responses remained intact in nearly all of the control subjects.

At 1 year, 70.9% in the GP group compared with 68.4% in control arm were free of recurrence (P = .7); there were no statistically significant differences when the analysis was limited to the 59% of patients who went into the trial with persistent AF or limited to the rest of the patients with paroxysmal AF. Recurrences constituted significantly more atrial tachycardia in the GP group than in the control group. Even after the researchers controlled for a wide variety of demographic, anatomical, and clinical variables, “GP ablation made no difference in atrial fibrillation recurrence at 1 year,” Dr. de Groot said at the annual scientific sessions of the Hearth Rhythm Society.

Meanwhile, major perioperative bleeding occurred in nine patients, all in the GP group, and one required a sternotomy for hemostatic control. Clinically relevant sinus node dysfunction occurred in 12 of the GP group, but only four control patients; six GP patients – but no one in the control arm – required subsequent pacemakers, three while in the hospital after surgery and three during follow-up. Almost 30 patients in each arm required cardioversion during the 3-month blanking period, and about 20 in each arm afterwards.

“The largest randomized study in thoracoscopic surgery for advanced AF to date demonstrates that GP ablation is associated with significantly more periprocedural major bleeding, sinus node dysfunction, and pacemaker implantation, but not with improved rhythm outcome,” the investigators concluded.

Procedure time was 185 +/– 54 minutes in the GP arm, and 168 +/– 54 minutes in the control arm (P = .015). In the GP group, four major GPs and the ligament of Marshall were ablated.

Patients were 60 years old, on average, and three-quarters were men. AF duration was a median of 4 years. Four patients had died at 1 year, all in the GP arm, but none related to the procedure. All antiarrhythmic drugs were stopped after the blanking period; any atrial arrhythmia lasting 30 seconds or longer thereafter was considered a recurrence.

Dr. de Groot disclosed payments for services from AtriCure, Daiichi, and St. Jude Medical and research funding from AtriCure and St. Jude.

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