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Research: Combining RF and CryoBalloon Ablation Techniques

Combining RF and CryoBalloon Ablation Techniques

Research Findings

By Combining RF and CryoBalloon Ablation Techniques, Do Success Rates Increase?

RF point-by-point ablation for Pulmonary Vein (PV) isolation is technically challenging, time consuming, and the first-time success rate is variable. CryoBalloon ablation is easier and faster.

Question: What happens when you combine the two techniques? Do success rates increase?

To find out, UK researcher, Dr. Ross J. Hunter devised a single-center study to compare three different ablation strategies. He divided 237 Paroxysmal A-Fib patients undergoing their first ablation into three treatment groups.

Group 1 Strategy: standard RF point-by-point wide of the Pulmonary Vein openings (PVs) using an irrigated tip catheter guided by a 3D mapping system.

Group 2 Strategy: CryoBalloon ablation using the Arctic Front CryoBalloon catheter, and if PV isolation wasn’t achieved using the CryoBalloon alone, RF focal lesions were added.

Group 3 Strategy: RF point-by-point ablation followed by two applications of the CryoBalloon.

Success Rates After One Year

Group 1:  At one year 47% were A-Fib free and off of all antiarrhythmic drugs; (This is a relatively low success rate compared to some centers using RF ablation.) Average procedure time was 211 minutes;

Group 2:  The one year success rate was 67% (significantly better than the RF group); Important Note: In addition to the CryoBalloon, 31% needed RF focal lesions to achieve PV isolation; Average procedure time was 167 minutes;

Group 3: After one year the success rate was 76% which was better than the CryoBalloon alone, but the difference wasn’t ‘statistically significant’ (meaning it could have occurred by chance); Average procedure time was 278 minutes.

How the Strategies Compare

In this single center study, the CryoBalloon plus RF lesions as needed strategy (Group 2) was faster, easier to use and was more effective after one year than RF point-by-point ablation approach (Group 1). Using the novel strategy of combining RF followed by CryoBalloon ablation (Group 3) did not significantly improve results and took longer to do.

Editor’s Comments:
When the authors designed this study, they thought the combined approach of RF followed by CryoBalloon (Group 3) would turn out to be superior to either RF alone or CryoBalloon with RF as needed. But the combined RF followed by CryoBalloon strategy was only superior to RF alone (Group 1).
Key Result for Patients: The most important finding of this study is that about 30% of CryoBalloon ablations required RF focal lesions to achieve isolation (and restore normal sinus rhythm).
CryoBalloon ablation is very effective. But for the best results, you want an EP who is not only experienced with CryoBalloon, but also, when needed, can use RF to map and isolate non-PV triggers.
Be cautious. With the advent of CryoBalloon ablation, some EPs with little or no expertise with RF ablations are now doing CryoBalloon ablations because they’re easier. Stay away from EPs who only do CryoBalloon ablation.
For example, recently a patient, still in A-Fib, sent me the O.R. (Operating Room) report of their CryoBalloon ablation. From reviewing the report, it appears the EP didn’t to make any attempt to map and isolate non-PV triggers, and simply shocked the patient to return him to normal sinus rhythm. This may work in some cases. But for this patient the ablation was a failure.
Most experienced EPs who have switched from RF to CryoBalloon ablation have the ability, skill and experience to use focal point RF as needed to make you A-Fib free.
Seek out these experienced EPs by asking “What do you do if I’m still in A-Fib after you do the CryoBalloon ablation? Will you use RF focal lesions to achieve isolation?”
References for this article

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