BACKGROUND: Although the incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF) progressively increases with age, the vast majority of AF ablation is done in middle-aged patients. We evaluated the feasibility and safety of catheter ablation in patients older than 65 years of age with paroxysmal and persistent AF.
METHODS: Out of a total of 230 consecutive AF ablation procedures, 45 patients were older than 65 years of age and underwent 53 procedures. The ablation strategy consisted of wide-area circumferential lines around both ipsilateral pulmonary veins using a three-dimensional mapping system.
RESULTS: The mean age was 69 ± 3.5 years (35 males). The mean duration for AF was 8.7 ± 6.5 years. Thirty-nine had paroxysmal and six persistent AF despite use of 1.38 ± 0.77 antiarrhythmic drugs. All patients had a structurally normal heart. Eleven had systemic hypertension. Mean procedure time was 187 ± 33 min. Acute procedural success rate with abolition of all pulmonary vein potentials was achieved in all patients. Pericardial tamponade requiring percutaneous drainage occurred in one (1.9%) patient. There were no cardioembolic events. Among the 43 patients whose clinical outcome was assessed at 6 months, 34 (79%) had a significant reduction (>90%) of the total symptomatic AF burden, compared to pre-ablation, with a complete lack of symptomatic AF in 32 (74%) patients. The success rate was higher for patients with paroxysmal versus persistent AF (81 vs. 67%). Six patients (11%) underwent repeat procedures.
CONCLUSIONS: Catheter ablation is a safe and effective treatment for patients over the age of 65 years with symptomatic, drug-refractory AF. Therefore, patients should not be excluded from undergoing AF catheter ablation on the basis of age alone.