Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2023 Mar 13;3:CD013765. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD013765.pub2.
BACKGROUND: Recurrence of atrial tachyarrhythmias (ATa) following catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common problem. Antiarrhythmic drugs have been used shortly after ablation in an attempt to maintain sinus rhythm, particularly Class I and III agents. However, it still needs to be established if the use of Class I or III antiarrhythmic medications, or both, reduce the risk of recurrence of ATa.
OBJECTIVES: To assess the effects of oral Class I and III antiarrhythmic drugs versus control (standard medical therapy without Class I or III antiarrhythmics, or placebo) for maintaining sinus rhythm in people undergoing catheter ablation for AF.
SEARCH METHODS: We systematically searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science Core Collection, and two clinical trial registers without restrictions on language or date to 5 August 2022.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We sought published, unpublished, and ongoing parallel-design, randomised controlled trials (RCTs) involving adult participants undergoing ablation for AF, with subsequent comparison of Class I and/or III antiarrhythmic use versus control (standard medical therapy or non-Class I and/or III antiarrhythmic use).
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane and performed meta-analyses with risk ratios (RR) and Peto odds ratios (Peto OR). Our primary outcomes were recurrence of atrial tachyarrhythmias; adverse events: thromboembolic events; adverse events: myocardial infarction; adverse events: new diagnosis of heart failure; and adverse events: requirement for one or more hospitalisations for atrial tachyarrhythmia. Our secondary outcomes were: all-cause mortality; and requirement for one or more repeat ablations. Where possible, we performed comparison analysis by Class I and/or III antiarrhythmic and divided follow-up periods for our primary outcome. We performed comprehensive assessments of risk of bias and certainty of evidence applying the GRADE methodology.
MAIN RESULTS: We included nine RCTs involving a total of 3269 participants. Participants were on average 59.3 years old; 71.0% were male; and 72.9% and 27.4% had paroxysmal and persistent AF, respectively. Class I and/or III antiarrhythmics may reduce recurrence of ATa at 0 to 3 months postablation (risk ratio (RR) 0.74, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.59 to 0.94, 8 trials, 3046 participants, low-certainty evidence) and likely reduce recurrence at > 3 to 6 months, our a priori primary time point (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.78 to 0.93, 5 trials, 2591 participants, moderate-certainty evidence). Beyond six months the evidence is very uncertain, and the benefit of antiarrhythmics may not persist (RR 1.14, 95% CI 0.84 to 1.55, 4 trials, 2244 participants, very low-certainty evidence). The evidence suggests that Class I and/or III antiarrhythmics may not increase the risk of thromboembolic events, myocardial infarction, all-cause mortality, or requirement for repeat ablation, at 0 to 3, > 3 to 6, and > 6 months (where data were available; low- to very low-certainty evidence). The use of Class I and/or III antiarrhythmics postablation likely reduces hospitalisations for ATa by approximately 57% at 0 to 3 months (RR 0.43, 95% CI 0.28 to 0.64, moderate-certainty evidence). No data were available beyond three months. No data were available on new diagnoses of heart failure. Fewer data were available for Class I and III antiarrhythmics individually. Based on only one and two trials (n = 125 to 309), Class I antiarrhythmics may have little effect on recurrence of ATa at 0 to 3, > 3 to 6, and > 6 months (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.64 to 1.20, 2 trials, 309 participants; RR 0.54, 95% CI 0.25 to 1.19, 1 trial, 125 participants; RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.57 to 1.32, 1 trial, 125 participants; low-certainty evidence throughout); requirement for hospitalisation for ATa at 0 to 3 months (low-certainty evidence); or requirement for repeat ablation at 0 to 3 months (low-certainty evidence). No data were available for thromboembolic events, myocardial infarction, new diagnosis of heart failure, or all-cause mortality at any time points, or hospitalisation or repeat ablation beyond three months. Class III antiarrhythmics may have little effect on recurrence of ATa at up to 3 months and at > 3 to 6 months (RR 0.76, 95% CI 0.50 to 1.16, 4 trials, 599 participants, low-certainty evidence; RR 0.82, 95% CI 0.62 to 1.09, 2 trials, 318 participants, low-certainty evidence), and beyond 6 months one trial reported a possible increase in recurrence of ATa (RR 1.95, 95% CI 1.29 to 2.94, 1 trial, 112 participants, low-certainty evidence). Class III antiarrhythmics likely reduce hospitalisations for ATa at 0 to 3 months (RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.26 to 0.63, moderate-certainty evidence), and may have little effect on all-cause mortality (low- to very low-certainty evidence). The effect of Class III antiarrhythmics on thromboembolic events and requirement for repeat ablation was uncertain (very low-certainty evidence for both outcomes). No data were available for myocardial infarction or new diagnosis of heart failure at any time point, outcomes other than recurrence beyond 6 months, or for hospitalisation and repeat ablation > 3 to 6 months. We assessed the majority of included trials as at low or unclear risk of bias. One trial reported an error in the randomisation process, raising the potential risk of selection bias; most of the included trials were non-blinded; and two trials were at high risk of attrition bias.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: We found evidence to suggest that the use of Class I and/or III antiarrhythmics up to 3 months after ablation is associated with a reduced recurrence of ATa 0 to 6 months after ablation, which may not persist beyond 6 months, and an immediate reduction in hospitalisation for ATa 0 to 3 months after ablation. The evidence suggests there is no difference in rates of all-cause mortality, thromboembolic events, or myocardial infarction between Class I and/or III antiarrhythmics versus control.