, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 193-197
Date: 16 Jun 2010

Ablation of atrial fibrillation after the retirement age: considerations on safety and outcome

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Although the incidence of atrial fibrillation (AF) progressively increases with age, the vast majority of AF ablation is done in middle-aged patients. We evaluated the feasibility and safety of catheter ablation in patients older than 65 years of age with paroxysmal and persistent AF.


Out of a total of 230 consecutive AF ablation procedures, 45 patients were older than 65 years of age and underwent 53 procedures. The ablation strategy consisted of wide-area circumferential lines around both ipsilateral pulmonary veins using a three-dimensional mapping system.


The mean age was 69 ± 3.5 years (35 males). The mean duration for AF was 8.7 ± 6.5 years. Thirty-nine had paroxysmal and six persistent AF despite use of 1.38 ± 0.77 antiarrhythmic drugs. All patients had a structurally normal heart. Eleven had systemic hypertension. Mean procedure time was 187 ± 33 min. Acute procedural success rate with abolition of all pulmonary vein potentials was achieved in all patients. Pericardial tamponade requiring percutaneous drainage occurred in one (1.9%) patient. There were no cardioembolic events. Among the 43 patients whose clinical outcome was assessed at 6 months, 34 (79%) had a significant reduction (>90%) of the total symptomatic AF burden, compared to pre-ablation, with a complete lack of symptomatic AF in 32 (74%) patients. The success rate was higher for patients with paroxysmal versus persistent AF (81 vs. 67%). Six patients (11%) underwent repeat procedures.


Catheter ablation is a safe and effective treatment for patients over the age of 65 years with symptomatic, drug-refractory AF. Therefore, patients should not be excluded from undergoing AF catheter ablation on the basis of age alone.

Drs. Haegeli and Duru contributed equally to this article and are shared first authors.