Could the necessity for multiple ablation procedures be predicted? According to a new research study, the answer is YES!
In a study of patients who had catheter ablation of the Pulmonary Veins (PVs) for paroxysmal (occasional) A-Fib, 8% had to have more than two ablations to be A-Fib free.
The only independent predictor of the need for multiple procedures was the presence of non-PV triggers. According to this research, EPs should check for non-PV triggers such as at the ligament of Marshall.
This 2015 published study was done before the widespread use of Contact Force sensing catheters which seem to have reduced recurrence and the need for multiple ablation procedures.
What This Means to Patients
The lesson to be learned from this study: When having an ablation, make sure your Electrophysiologist (EP) is experienced at tracking down (mapping) and ablating (isolating) non-PV triggers.
For example, I recently read an O.R. (Operating Room) report of a patient who, after isolating the PVs, was still in A-Fib. Instead of looking for non-PV triggers, the EP just electrocardioverted the patient back into sinus rhythm. This does sometimes work. But not in this case. The ablation failed.
This is particularly important for EPs doing CryoBalloon ablations.
Find EPs Experienced at Ablating Non-PV Triggers
When getting a CryoBalloon ablation, you need to find an EP who is willing to do more than just isolate your PVs—someone who will put out the extra effort to find and ablate non-PV triggers such as at the ligament of Marshall.
To do this, your EP may have to replace the CryoBalloon catheter with an RF catheter to ablate these non-PV triggers. This may require mapping and ablation skills not all EPs have.
What to Ask Prospective EPs
To find the right EP for your CryoBalloon ablation ask:
What do you do if I’m still in A-Fib after you do the CryoBalloon ablation?
(You want to hear they’ll search for and ablate non-PV triggers.)
For more about Ablating Non-PV Triggers, see my article: CryoBalloon Ablation Study: 30% of Patients Required RF to Achieve Isolation
See the glossary for Ligament of Marshall.