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The Phrenic Nerve and Atrial Fibrillation Ablation Procedures

Radiofrequency ablation is increasingly used as an option to optimally manage patients with symptomatic atrial fibrillation.  Presently, ablationists strive to improve success rates, particularly with persistent atrial fibrillation, while simultaneously attempting to reduce complications.  A well-recognized complication with atrial fibrillation ablation is injury to the phrenic nerve giving rise to diaphragmatic paresis and patient discomfort. 

Phrenic nerve damage may occur when performing common components of atrial fibrillation ablation including pulmonary and superior vena caval isolation.  The challenge for ablationists is to successfully target the arrhythmogenic substrate while avoiding this complication.  In order to do this, a thorough knowledge of phrenic nerve anatomy, points in the ablation procedure where nerve damage is more likely, and an understanding of the presently utilized techniques to avoid this complication is required. 

In addition, when this complication does arise, prompt recognition of its occurrence, knowledge of the natural history, and available methods for management are needed.

 In this review, we discuss the underlying anatomic principles, techniques of avoiding phrenic nerve damage, and presently available methods of diagnosing and managing this complication. 


Credits: Jennifer A. Mears, BS; Nirusha Lachman, PhD; Kevin Christensen; Samuel J. Asirvatham MD, FACC, FHRS

Biosense Webster
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Introduction to AFib
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