Conference Coverage

Losing weight may bolster AFib ablation’s chances for success: LEAF interim results



Weight loss before catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (AFib) in patients who are initially overweight or obese can boost the procedure’s chances for abolishing the arrhythmia, at least in the short term, a new analysis suggests.

The finding comes from a small study that entered such patients with paroxysmal and especially persistent AFib who were candidates for ablation. Those shedding at least 3% of body weight in the months before the procedure while engaged in a structured risk-factor modification (RFM) program were “dramatically” more likely to be AFib-free 6 months later.

The improved ablation efficacy, compared with results in similar patients who didn’t lose as much weight, was most pronounced among those whose AFib had been the persistent form, reported investigators at the annual scientific sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society, held in New Orleans.

Of note, ablations in the study were consistently limited, as much as possible, to standard pulmonary-vein isolation (PVI).

Associations between AFib and obesity and other behavioral and lifestyle-related risk factors are well recognized, but the limited studies of their effect on AFib ablation success have been inconsistent. The current analysis, the group says, points specifically to preablation weight loss as means to improving AFib-ablation outcomes.

“Adjunctive therapy focused on weight loss should be incorporated in the treatment plan for obese patients undergoing ablation for atrial fibrillation,” Jeffrey J. Goldberger, MD, MBA, of the University of Miami, said when presenting the new results at the HRS sessions.

Such a plan is entirely consistent with recent guidelines and especially a 2020 American Heart Association (AHA) consensus statement, but is inconsistently and perhaps even seldom realized in clinical practice.

Dramatic increase in success

Even modest weight loss before ablation may help, proposed Dr. Goldberger, who directs his institution’s Center for Atrial Fibrillation. Decreases for the greater-weight-loss group actually averaged less than 6% of baseline body weight.

Yet it was apparently enough to improve ablation outcomes significantly: Eighty-eight percent were free of AFib 6 months after the procedure, compared with 61% for patients who lost less than 3% of their preablation weight.

For improving ablation success, he said, “We’re talking about a moderate amount of weight loss. These patients are not going from being obese to being thin. They’re still quite overweight.”

In an analysis limited to the four-fifths of patients with persistent AFib, “we saw the same pattern,” Dr. Goldberger said at a media presentation prior to his formal report at the HRS sessions.

Moreover, that subgroup’s benefit persisted out to 12 months, at which time 42% and 81% of patients with less and greater weight loss, respectively, were free of AFib. That represents, he said, “a really tremendous – dramatic, actually – increase in success of pulmonary vein isolation in those who lost weight.”

“We’ve known for a long time that weight loss is important for preventing atrial fibrillation or increasing the success rates of the different treatments we use,” Cynthia M. Tracy, MD, said in an interview. “Probably in some studies, weight loss has been as effective as antiarrhythmics.”

A loss of 3% body weight “is not a lot,” she said. In the current analysis, “It’s notable that it made that much difference with even a fairly modest amount of weight loss.”

Now when asked, “ ‘How much do I have to lose before you’ll consider doing my ablation?’ we have a bit more concrete data to give patients and doctors as to what amount might be beneficial,” said Dr. Tracy of George Washington University Hospital, Washington, who is not associated with the study.


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