Dr. Josef Kautzner’s presentation demonstrated that living with “AF is more dangerous than its ablation” because of the risks of cerebral lesions and cognitive impairment. Small cerebral lesions don’t seem to cause symptoms, but obviously doctors want to avoid creating any kind of lesions on the brain if at all possible.
In MRI tests, a high proportion of A-Fib patients before ablation had silent cerebral infarctions or lesions (60%-80%). But the problem is that similar lesions were detected by MRI even in patients without documented A-Fib.
Therefore, we still do not know how much A-Fib contributes to the development of such lesions. On the other hand, their presence may explain (at least in part) the association between A-Fib and dementia.
Read my AF Symposium summary on how silent brain lesions develop, and proposed strategies to minimize the risk of silent lesions.
by Steve S. Ryan, PhD
In the June/July 2014 issue of The AFIB Report, Managing Editor, Shannon Dickson describes how Dr. Andrea Natale performed an ablation on his friend who was in persistent A-Fib. Shannon was an observer in Dr. Natale’s operating lab at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, CA.
“Dragging or Gliding” Ablation technique
Instead of using the dot-by-dot or point-by-point ablation technique commonly used in RF ablation, Dr. Natale positioned the catheter tip at an angle to the tissue and in contact with the Lasso circular mapping catheter and dragged or glided the catheter and Lasso together in one movement. Instead of making vertical downward dot-by-dot burns, he made continuous ablation lines or lesions. (This isn’t really a “new” ablation technique in that Dr. Natale has been perfecting this technique over many years.)
This dragging method allowed him to vary power and force depending on the variable wall thickness as he moved along. One result is potentially less inflammation swelling, which can form more readily around each discrete burn in the dot-by-dot technique. In turn, round dots of inflammation around each burn can potentially result is small gaps forming in between each ‘dot’.
Followup: Shannon Dickson’s writes that Dr. Natale’s ablation was a success and his friend is now A-Fib free!
Dr. Natale’s innovative RF ablation technique for persistent A-Fib patients seems like a major advance in ablation strategy. In addition to making better linear lesions, it’s probably a lot faster than the standard point-by-point RF ablation strategy.
So my next thought is: ‘Is this a technique dependent of the skill of the operator, or can it be taught to all EPs?’ (I will be sure to ask Dr. Natale this question at the next Orlando AF Symposium.)
Once again, I’m amazed that there’s no regulatory body requiring EPs to learn new skills or how to use new, proven equipment. Even if Dr. Natale’s new ablation technique is indeed teachable, it’s probable very few EPs will adopt it.
This is in stark contrast to other professions responsible for human lives. Case in point are commercial airline pilots. Pilots “undergo rigorous, continuing, high stakes assessments and examinations supported by mandatory training and retraining.”
A move in that direction has been started by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). They have begun a maintenance of certification (MOC) in order for a doctor to retain board certification; but physicians who received their board certification prior to this policy change remain certified for life. The American Board of Internal Medicine, the official “certifying” body of a large proportion of doctors in the US, has established a new re certification program which many doctors are up in arms about.
See Larry Huston’s Three Reasons Why You Don’t Need To Feel Sorry For Doctors
Last updated: Friday, February 27, 2015
6. “During the ablation procedure A-Fib doctors actually burn within the heart with RF energy. How does this burning and scarring affect how the heart functions? Should athletes, for example, be concerned that their heart won’t function as well after an ablation?”
Particularly during ablations for persistent (Chronic) A-Fib, long procedures and extensive ablation are often required. These result in significant scarring and damage to heart tissue. But a study from the French Bordeaux group found “recovery of atrial contractile function” (the heart goes back to beating and contracting normally) in 98% of patients in sinus rhythm after six months of follow-up. But less experienced centers that do extensive ablations do run the risk of compromising the pumping ability and transport function of the left atrium. This was a problem with the original Cox Maze operation and is also a risk with the more extensive surgical approaches.
In general, the less ablation and heart scarring, the better. But it’s encouraging that from this preliminary study, even after extensive ablations, the heart usually returns to normal.
Takahashi Y et al. “How to interpret and identify pulmonary vein recordings with the Lasso catheter.” Heart Rhythm 2006;3:748-750.
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