Role of Contact Force Sensing in Catheter Ablation of Cardiac Arrhythmias: Evolution or History Repeating Itself?


Adequate catheter-tissue contact facilitates efficient heat energy transfer to target tissue. Tissue contact is thus critical to achieving lesion transmurality and success of radiofrequency (RF) ablation procedures, a fact recognized more than 2 decades ago. The availability of real-time contact force (CF)–sensing catheters has reinvigorated the field of ablation biophysics and optimized lesion formation. The ability to measure and display CF came with the promise of dramatic improvement in safety and efficacy; however, CF quality was noted to have just as important an influence on lesion formation as absolute CF quantity. Multiple other factors have emerged as key elements influencing effective lesion formation, including catheter stability, lesion contiguity and continuity, lesion density, contact homogeneity across a line of ablation, spatiotemporal dynamics of contact governed by cardiac and respiratory motion, contact directionality, and anatomic wall thickness, in addition to traditional ablation indices of power and RF duration. There is greater appreciation of surrogate markers as a guide to lesion formation, such as impedance fall, loss of pace capture, and change in unipolar electrogram morphology. In contrast, other surrogates such as tactile feedback, catheter motion, and electrogram amplitude are notably poor predictors of actual contact and lesion formation. This review aims to contextualize the role of CF sensing in lesion formation with respect of the fundamental principles of biophysics of RF ablation and summarize the state-of-the-art evidence behind the role of CF in optimizing lesion formation.

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JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology Volume 4, Issue 6, June 2018, Pages 707-723