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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002 Jul 3;40(1):105-10.

Sudden death after radiofrequency ablation of the atrioventricular node in patients with atrial fibrillation.

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  • 1Division of Cardiovascular Diseases and Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota 55905, USA.



We evaluated the incidence and predictors of sudden death after atrioventricular (AV) node ablation and pacemaker implantation.


Sudden death may occur after radiofrequency catheter ablation of the AV node and pacemaker implantation in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Whether it is related to the procedure or to pre-existing heart disease remains unclear.


All patients who had radiofrequency catheter ablation of the AV node and pacemaker implantation for rate control of medically refractory AF were identified retrospectively and observed prospectively. All patients with sudden death after ablation were identified. The relationship between the procedure and sudden death was defined on the basis of the time between the two as "likely," "possibly" or "unlikely."


Of 334 consecutive patients with AF who underwent AV node ablation, nine had sudden death after the ablation. Four patients (1.2%) had sudden death likely related to the procedure: in 3 patients, arrest occurred within 48 h after the procedure; in one patient, arrest occurred four days after the procedure. In three other patients (0.9%), sudden death was possibly related to the procedure because the event occurred within three months afterward. The remaining two deaths were unrelated to the procedure. Diabetes, New York Heart Association functional class (>or=II), preprocedure ventricular arrhythmia, mitral or aortic stenosis, aortic regurgitation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were independent predictors for sudden death.


Sudden death likely or possibly related to catheter ablation occurred in 7 of 334 patients (2.1%). Risk of sudden death is highest within two days after the procedure.

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