Cryoballoon vs radiofrequency ablation of atrial fibrillation: insights from the Veterans Healthcare System

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Journal of interventional cardiac electrophysiology


PURPOSE: Catheter ablation is considered the mainstay treatment for drug-refractory atrial fibrillation (AF). The aims of our study were to compare the efficacy and safety of the most two currently approved approaches (point-by-point radiofrequency ablation (RFA), either with contact force (CF) or without contact force (nCF) catheters, and cryoballoon ablation (CBA)) in the Veterans Healthcare System.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective study of patients who underwent ablation for treatment of AF at the veterans affairs healthcare system between 2013 and 2018. Only the first reported ablation procedure was included.

RESULTS: We included 956 patients in the study (97.4% males, 91.5% Caucasians, 67% paroxysmal AF), with 682 patients in RFA-nCF, 139 in RFA-CF, and 135 in CBA. Thirty-day complication rates were comparable between the three groups with the exception of higher incidence of phrenic nerve injury in CBA group when compared to RFA-nCF (2.2% vs 0.0%, p < 0.01). Long-term recurrence rate of AF was significantly lower in the CBA group when compared to RFA-nCF (33.3% vs 47.7%, adjusted HR 0.60, 95% CI 0.44-0.83, p < 0.01). On the other hand, it was similar between RFA-CF and RFA-nCF groups (43.9% vs 47.7%, adjusted HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.76-1.33, p 0.97). After stratifying patients based on AF type, these findings were only present in patients with paroxysmal AF.

CONCLUSION: CBA for paroxysmal AF, in male dominant patients' population, was associated with lower incidence of AF recurrence rate while having a comparable safety profile to RFA independent of the use of CF catheters.

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ePub ahead of print