Heart. 2023 Sep 1:heartjnl-2023-322883. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2023-322883. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVE: Catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation effectively reduces symptomatic burden. However, its long-term effect on mortality and stroke is unclear. We investigated if patients with atrial fibrillation who undergo catheter ablation have lower risk for all-cause mortality or stroke than patients who are managed medically.
METHODS: We retrospectively included 5628 consecutive patients who underwent first-time catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation between 2008 and 2018 at three major Swedish electrophysiology units. Control individuals with an atrial fibrillation diagnosis but without previous stroke were selected from the Swedish National Patient Register, resulting in a control group of 48 676 patients. Propensity score matching was performed to produce two cohorts of equal size (n=3955) with similar baseline characteristics. The primary endpoint was a composite of all-cause mortality or stroke.
RESULTS: Patients who underwent catheter ablation were healthier (mean CHA2DS2-VASc score 1.4±1.4 vs 1.6±1.5, p<0.001), had a higher median income (288 vs 212 1000 Swedish krona [KSEK]/year, p<0.001) and had more frequently received university education (45.1% vs 28.9%, p<0.001). Mean follow-up was 4.5±2.8 years. After propensity score matching, catheter ablation was associated with lower risk for the combined primary endpoint (HR 0.58, 95% CI 0.48 to 0.69). The result was mainly driven by a decrease in all-cause mortality (HR 0.51, 95% CI 0.41 to 0.63), with stroke reduction showing a trend in favour of catheter ablation (HR 0.75, 95% CI 0.53 to 1.07).
CONCLUSIONS: Catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation was associated with a reduction in the primary endpoint of all-cause mortality or stroke. This result was driven by a marked reduction in all-cause mortality.