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Silent Cerebral Events after Atrial Fibrillation Ablation – Overview and Current Data


Silent cerebral lesions (SCL) have been identified on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in apparently asymptomatic patients after cardiovascular procedures. After atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation incidences range from 1 to over 40% depending upon different factors.

MRI definition should include diffusion weighted imaging (DWI) to detect hyperintensities (bright spots) due to acute brain ischemia correlated with a hypointensity in the apparent diffusion coefficient mapping (ADC-map) to rule out artifacts. The genesis of SCL appears to be multifactorial and appears to be a result of embolic events either from gaseous or solid particles. The MRI pattern appears to be comparable not hinting towards a specific mechanism. One may distinguish two different MRI patterns, for one silent cerebral ischemic events not proven to be related to cell death (DWI positive but FLAIR negative) and MRI findings that are due to edema caused by cell death which will lead to glial cell scar formation (DWI positive and FLAIR positive). For ease of data interpretation, future studies should ensure that DWI and FLAIR data is acquired using identical slice thickness and orientation.

Risk factors associated with increased SCL-incidences involve patient-specific, technology-associated and procedural determinants. When using a high-sensitive MRI definition differences in ischemic brain event-rates in between technologies appear to be less prominent. Further studies on the effects of different periprocedural anticoagulation regimen, different steps of the ablation procedure and new technologies are needed. For now, SCL incidence may determine the thrombogenic potential of an ablation technology and further studies to reduce or avoid SCL generation are desirable. It appears reasonable, that any cerebral ischemic event should be avoided.

Credits: Thomas Deneke; Karin Nentwich; Joachim Krug; Patrick Müller; Peter Hubert Grewe; Andreas Mügge; Anja Schade



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