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J Am Coll Cardiol. 2012 Aug 14;60(7):628-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jacc.2012.05.022. Epub 2012 Jul 18.

Treatment of atrial fibrillation by the ablation of localized sources: CONFIRM (Conventional Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation With or Without Focal Impulse and Rotor Modulation) trial.

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Department of Medicine, University of California at San Diego, San Diego, California 92161, USA.



We hypothesized that human atrial fibrillation (AF) may be sustained by localized sources (electrical rotors and focal impulses), whose elimination (focal impulse and rotor modulation [FIRM]) may improve outcome from AF ablation.


Catheter ablation for AF is a promising therapy, whose success is limited in part by uncertainty in the mechanisms that sustain AF. We developed a computational approach to map whether AF is sustained by several meandering waves (the prevailing hypothesis) or localized sources, then prospectively tested whether targeting patient-specific mechanisms revealed by mapping would improve AF ablation outcome.


We recruited 92 subjects during 107 consecutive ablation procedures for paroxysmal or persistent (72%) AF. Cases were prospectively treated, in a 2-arm 1:2 design, by ablation at sources (FIRM-guided) followed by conventional ablation (n = 36), or conventional ablation alone (n = 71; FIRM-blinded).


Localized rotors or focal impulses were detected in 98 (97%) of 101 cases with sustained AF, each exhibiting 2.1 ± 1.0 sources. The acute endpoint (AF termination or consistent slowing) was achieved in 86% of FIRM-guided cases versus 20% of FIRM-blinded cases (p < 0.001). FIRM ablation alone at the primary source terminated AF in a median 2.5 min (interquartile range: 1.0 to 3.1 min). Total ablation time did not differ between groups (57.8 ± 22.8 min vs. 52.1 ± 17.8 min, p = 0.16). During a median 273 days (interquartile range: 132 to 681 days) after a single procedure, FIRM-guided cases had higher freedom from AF (82.4% vs. 44.9%; p < 0.001) after a single procedure than FIRM-blinded cases with rigorous, often implanted, electrocardiography monitoring. Adverse events did not differ between groups.


Localized electrical rotors and focal impulse sources are prevalent sustaining mechanisms for human AF. FIRM ablation at patient-specific sources acutely terminated or slowed AF, and improved outcome. These results offer a novel mechanistic framework and treatment paradigm for AF. (Conventional Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation With or Without Focal Impulse and Rotor Modulation [CONFIRM]; NCT01008722).

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