Effect of air removal with extracorporeal balloon inflation on incidence of asymptomatic cerebral embolism during cryoballoon ablation of atrial fibrillation


      Asymptomatic cerebral embolism (ACE) is sometimes detected after cryoballoon ablation of atrial fibrillation. The removal of air bubbles from the cryoballoon before utilization may reduce the rate of ACE.


      This study aims to compare the incidence of ACE between a conventional and a novel balloon massaging method during cryoballoon ablation.


      Of 175 consecutive patients undergoing initial cryoballoon ablation of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, 60 (34.3%) patients underwent novel balloon massaging with extracorporeal balloon inflation in saline water (group N) before the cryoballoon was inserted into the body. The remaining 115 (65.7%) patients underwent conventional balloon massaging in saline water while the balloon remained folded (group C). Of those, 86 propensity score–matched patients were included.


      The baseline characteristics were similar between the 2 groups. In group N, even after balloon massaging in saline water was carefully performed, multiple air bubbles remained on the balloon surface when the cryoballoon was inflated in all cases. Postprocedural cerebral magnetic resonance imaging detected ACE in 14.0% of all patients. The incidence of ACE was significantly lower in group N than in group C (4.7% vs 23.3%; P = .01). According to multivariable analysis, the novel method was the sole factor associated with the presence of ACE (odds ratio 0.161; 95% confidence interval 0.033–0.736; P = .02).


      Preliminary removal of air bubbles in heparinized saline water with extracorporeal balloon inflation reduced the incidence of ACE. Since conventional balloon massaging failed to remove air bubbles completely, this novel balloon massaging method should be recommended before cryoballoon utilization.


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