Susceptibility to atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachyarrhythmia in the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome: Role of the accessory pathway

Lawrence E. Waspe, Richard Brodman, Soo G. Kim, John D. Fisher

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60 Scopus citations


Clinical and electrophysiologic characteristics associated with spontaneous and inducible atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachyarrhythmia were assessed in 20 consecutive patients with Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome undergoing surgical division (n = 12) or transcatheter electrical ablation (n = 8) of accessory pathways. Patients with spontaneous atrial fibrillation were characterized by the trend (not significant) of a shorter antegrade accessory pathway effective refractory period (256 ± 26 vs 303 ± 109 msec). However, patients with and without spontaneous atrial fibrillation did not differ with respect to prevalence of structural heart disease (3 of 11 vs 2 of 9), intra-atrial conduction time (34 ± 10 vs 32 ± 10 msec), or interatrial conduction time (86 ± 21 vs 88 ± 17 msec). Thus, atrial and accessory pathway electrophysiologic properties (per se) were not clear determinants of susceptibility to atrial fibrillation. Among the 20 patients, 10 to 35 beats of nonsustained ventricular tachycardia (seven patients) or ventricular fibrillation (three patients) were induced at electrophysiologic study with one to three programmed extrastimull. Clinically, a ventricular arrhythmia (ventricular fibrillation during atrial fibrillation) had occurred in only one of these patients. The discordance of these observations was significant (p < 0.01). Patients with and without inducible ventricular arrhythmias were not distinguished by clinical factors or by electrophysiologic properties of the accessory pathway or ventricles. Accessory pathway conduction was completely or partially eliminated by ablation procedures in 14 of 20 patients. During a mean follow-up of 27 months, atrial fibrillation recurred in two patients with failed ablation procedures and in one patient with left atrial enlargement (despite accessory pathway division) (p = 0.019 vs pre-ablation). Ventricular arrhythmias remained inducible in two patients in whom accessory pathway ablation failed (p = 0.01 vs initial study). However, spontaneous ventricular tachyarrhythmias did not occur during follow-up. We conclude that susceptibility to spontaneous or inducible atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachyarrhythmia in patients with WPW syndrome and no organic heart disease depends primarlly on the existence of a functional accessory pathway. These susceptibllities are eliminated by interruption of accessory pathway conduction. Ventricular tachyarrhythmias remain infrequent spontaneous events in the WPW syndrome. Their more frequent induction at electrophysiologic study is not predictive of clinical occurrence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1141-1152
Number of pages12
JournalAmerican heart journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1986

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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