Sinus rhythm heart rate increase after atrial fibrillation ablation is associated with lower risk of arrhythmia recurrence

Background: Pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) with autonomic modulation may be more successful than PVI alone for atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation and may be signaled by changes in sinus rhythm heart rate (HR) post ablation. We sought to determine if a change in sinus rhythm HR predicted AF recurrence post PVI.

Methods: Patients who underwent AF ablation from 2000 to 2011 were included if sinus rhythm was noted on ECG within 90 days pre and 7 days post ablation. Basic ECG interval and HR changes were analyzed and outcomes determined.

Results: A total of 1152 patients were identified (74.3% male, mean age 57 ± 11 years). Mean AF duration was 5.2 ± 5.3 years. Paroxysmal AF was noted in 712 (61.8%) of the patients. Mean EF was 61% ± 6%. Sinus rhythm HR was 61 ± 11 pre-ablation and 76 ± 13 bpm post-ablation (27% ± 24% increase, p < .001). The ability of relative HR change post-ablation to predict AF recurrence was borderline (hazard ratio 0.65 [0.41-1.01], p = .067). With patients separated into quartiles based on the relative HR change, the upper quartile with the largest relative increase in HR had a significantly lower rate of AF recurrence compared to the lowest quartile following multi variable modeling (p = .038). There were significant changes in PR (171 ± 28 to 167 ± 30 ms) and QTc (424 ± 25 to 434 ± 29 ms) intervals (both p < .001) but these were not predictive of outcome.

Conclusion: Relative changes in HR post AF ablation correlates with AF recurrence. Further prospective studies are needed to confirm this relationship.

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