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Circulation. 1995 Feb 1;91(3):707-14.

Radiofrequency ablation of intra-atrial reentrant tachycardia after surgical palliation of congenital heart disease.

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Department of Cardiology, Children's Hospital, Boston, Mass 02115.



Intra-atrial reentrant tachycardia (IART), also called atrial flutter, is a common and potentially lethal complication of surgical correction of congenital heart disease. Medical management of IART is often problematic, which prompts an investigation of the utility of radiofrequency (RF) ablation for management of these arrhythmias.


Ten consecutive patients referred for treatment of recurrent IART after surgery for congenital heart disease were studied. Median age was 18.4 years, and median duration of arrhythmia was 6.4 years; a median of three antiarrhythmic drugs had been tried. Surgical procedures used were Fontan (6), Mustard/Senning (2), and biventricular repair (2). Intracardiac electrophysiological study demonstrated 30 distinct IART circuits, defined by activation sequence and cycle length. Mean IART cycle length was 323 +/- 114 ms. Cycle length was significantly longer in IART circuits that were successfully ablated compared with those that were not (381 versus 248 ms, P < .001). RF ablation was attempted in 22 of these circuits. Ablation sites were targeted to presumed exit points from zones of slow conduction by electrophysiological criteria. Sites chosen in this manner clustered in four distinct areas of the right atrium. Of 22 IART circuit ablations attempted, 17 (77%) resulted in acute termination of the tachycardia. In 8 of 10 patients in whom at least one IART circuit was successfully ablated, 4 are free of clinical tachycardia and 3 are improved over short-term follow-up. No complications were encountered.


Multiple IART circuits may be present in patients after surgery for congenital heart defects. Activation sequences observed were diverse and different from those observed in atrial flutter in patients with normal anatomy. Interruption of IART circuits by RF ablation is feasible using mapping techniques aimed at identifying an exit point from a zone of slow conduction. Short-term follow-up suggests that RF ablation may be a useful adjunct in management of IART in these difficult patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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