Aims: Neither the long-term development of ablation lesions nor the capability of late gadolinium enhancement (LGE)-MRI to detect ablation-induced fibrosis at late stages of scar formation have been defined. We sought to assess the development of atrial ablation lesions over time using LGE-MRI and invasive electroanatomical mapping (EAM).
Methods and results: Ablation lesions and total atrial fibrosis were assessed in serial LGE-MRI scans 3 months and >12 months post pulmonary vein (PV) isolation. High-density EAM performed in subsequent repeat ablation procedures served as a reference. Serial LGE-MRI of 22 patients were analyzed retrospectively. The PV encircling ablation lines displayed an average LGE, indicative of ablation-induced fibrosis, of 91.7% ± 7.0% of the circumference at 3 months, but only 62.8% ± 25.0% at a median of 28 months post ablation (p < 0.0001). EAM performed in 18 patients undergoing a subsequent repeat procedure revealed that the consistent decrease in LGE over time was owed to a reduced detectability of ablation-induced fibrosis by LGE-MRI at time-points > 12 months post ablation. Accordingly, the agreement with EAM regarding detection of ablation-induced fibrosis and functional gaps was good for the LGE-MRI at 3 months (κ .74; p < .0001), but only weak for the LGE-MRI at 28 months post-ablation (κ .29; p < .0001).
Conclusion: While non-invasive lesion assessment with LGE-MRI 3 months post ablation provides accurate guidance for future redo-procedures, detectability of atrial ablation lesions appears to decrease over time. Thus, it should be considered to perform LGE-MRI 3 months post-ablation rather than at later time-points > 12 months post ablation, like for example, prior to a planned redo-ablation procedure.