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A Journal on Heart and Vascular Diseases

Official Journal of the Italian Society of Angiology and Vascular Pathology
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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2007 June;55(3):353-68


language: English

Complications associated with catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation

Dhruvakumar S., Gerstenfeld E. P.

Division of Cardiology Department of Medicine University of Pennsylvania Health System Philadelphia, PA, USA


Atrial fibrillation is the most common clinical arrhythmia, affecting millions of people worldwide and utilizing billions of dollars annually in heath care costs associated with the disease. Catheter based ablation, centering around the electrical isolation of the pulmonary veins, has emerged as a viable treatment option for patients with symptomatic paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation. Because of the complex nature of the procedure, there are a number of potential complications which can occur which are related to problems with vascular access, mechanical complications resulting from catheter manipulation within the heart, cardioembolic complications, and complications arising from the effects of radiofrequency ablations in the left atrium. The most frequent complications arise from pseudoaneurysms, arterio-venous fistulas, hematomas, neurologic events (stroke and transient ischemic attacks), and pericardial effusion/tamponade. An evolving understanding of the risks of the procedure have helped to minimize complications by changing ablation strategies to avoid lesion delivery within the veins, emphasizing careful attention during the procedure to anticoagulation, utilizing intracardiac ultrasound and electroanatomic mapping systems for better visualization of intracardiac structures, and recognizing complications promptly during and after the procedure. Hopefully, improved techniques in the future will help to further improve the safety of catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation to allow for continued growth of this procedure.

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