A simple way to treat chronic atrial fibrillation during mitral valve surgery: The epicardial radiofrequency approach

Stefano Benussi, Carlo Pappone, Simona Nascimbene, Giuseppe Oreto, Alessandro Caldarola, Pier Luigi Stefano, Valter Casati, Ottavio Alfieri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: We describe an original radiofrequency ablation technique to treat chronic atrial fibrillation in patients undergoing mitral valve surgery. Most of the procedure is carried out epicardially, in order to avoid an undue increase of surgical time and trauma. Methods: The ablations are performed using a temperature-controlled multipolar radiofrequency catheter. Two encircling lesions around the ostia of the right and of the left pulmonary veins are carried out epicardially, usually before cardiopulmonary bypass. Through a conventional left atriotomy the ablation procedure is completed with two endocardial lesions connecting the two encirclings between them and to the mitral valve annulus. After the mitral valve procedure is performed, the left appendage is sutured. Results: From February 1998 to May 1999, 40 patients with chronic atrial fibrillation (43.1 ± 51.9 months) underwent combined radiofrequency ablation and mitral valve surgery. Mean left atrial diameter was 56.8 ± 10.7 mm. Mean cardiopulmonary bypass and aortic cross-clamp time were, respectively, 119.1 ± 26.3 and 76.7 ± 21.0 min. Mean postoperative blood loss was 287.2 ± 186.6 ml. No reexploration for bleeding occurred. One patient died of pneumonia 12 days after operation. No patient needed permanent pacemaker implantation. Mean postoperative hospital stay was 7.3 ± 5.6 days. At follow-up (mean 11.6 ± 4.7 months), 30/39 (76.9%) of the patients were in stable sinus rhythm. All patients in sinus rhythm 3 months after operation recovered both left and right atrial contractility at echocardiographic control (mean 7.3 ± 3.4 months). The left atrial diameter decreased significantly in patients recovering sinus rhythm. Conclusions: Epicardial radiofrequency ablation is a safe means to achieve surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation with a high success rate. The simplicity of the technique and the low procedure-related risk should dictate combined treatment virtually in all patients with atrial fibrillation undergoing open heart operations. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)524-529
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 2000


  • Arrhythmia surgery
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Atrial fibrillation surgery
  • Mitral valve surgery
  • Radiofrequency ablation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Surgery


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