Aims: We tested the hypothesis that atrioventricular (AV) junction ablation in conjunction biventricular pacing [cardiac resynchronization (CRT)] pacing is superior to pharmacological rate-control therapy in reducing heart failure (HF) and hospitalization in patients with permanent atrial fibrillation (AF) and narrow QRS.
Methods and results: We randomly assigned 102 patients (mean age 72 ± 10 years) with severely symptomatic permanent AF (>6 months), narrow QRS (≤110 ms), and at least one hospitalization for HF in the previous year to AV junction ablation and CRT (plus defibrillator according to guidelines) or to pharmacological rate-control therapy (plus defibrillator according to guidelines). After a median follow-up of 16 months, the primary composite outcome of death due to HF, or hospitalization due to HF, or worsening HF had occurred in 10 patients (20%) in the Ablation+CRT arm and in 20 patients (38%) in the Drug arm [hazard ratio (HR) 0.38; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.18-0.81; P = 0.013]. Significantly fewer patients in the Ablation+CRT arm died from any cause or underwent hospitalization for HF [6 (12%) vs. 17 (33%); HR 0.28; 95% CI 0.11-0.72; P = 0.008], or were hospitalized for HF [5 (10%) vs. 13 (25%); HR 0.30; 95% CI 0.11-0.78; P = 0.024]. In comparison with the Drug arm, Ablation+CRT patients showed a 36% decrease in the specific symptoms and physical limitations of AF at 1 year follow-up (P = 0.004).
Conclusion: Ablation+CRT was superior to pharmacological therapy in reducing HF and hospitalization and improving quality of life in elderly patients with permanent AF and narrow QRS.
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02137187 (May 2018, date last accessed).