Cardiac resynchronization (CRT) therapy is indicated in patients with at least mildly symptomatic heart failure, left ventricular ejection fraction ≤35% and wide QRS, and has been associated with decreased morbidity and mortality. Unfortunately, approximately 30% of the patients appropriately selected for therapy do not respond to CRT. Among the reasons for non-response, atrial fibrillation (AF) plays a prominent role. AF limits the degree of biventricular pacing during CRT, not only when the ventricular rate is fast and highly irregular, but also during periods of of relatively constant rate, by causing fusion and pseudo-fusion complexes. Importantly, achievement of nearly 100% biventricular pacing is necessary to derive benefit from CRT. A simple, albeit irreversible, method to maximize biventricular pacing in patients with AF who are otherwise eligible for CRT is atrioventricular junction (AVJ) ablation. In this review, we discuss the role of AVJ ablation in CRT optimization in patients with AF. The available evidence from observational non-randomized studies suggests that AVJ ablation in patients with AF qualifying for CRT may offer improvement in heart failure symptoms, better survival, and better cardiac function. In light of the inherent limitations of non-randomized studies, further randomized studies are needed to support this treatment option.
Credits: Paul J. Garabelli, MD; Stavros Stavrakis, MD, PhD