15 June 2022

A cath lab team at Royal Papworth Hospital has performed the UK’s first ablation procedure using innovative technology designed to improve safety and efficiency. 

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance, affecting around 1.4 million people in the UK. It causes debilitating and life limiting symptoms such as palpitations, breathlessness and fatigue. 

Until now, catheter ablations to treat AF have mostly used thermal energy, by either burning or freezing problematic heart tissue.

However, this carries a risk of damaging neighbouring tissue such as the oesophagus or the phrenic nerve which controls the diaphragm. 

A new technology – called FARAPULSE PFA by Boston Scientific – uses a non-thermal electric field energy source that targets heart tissue whilst avoiding damaging these other structures.

Six people standing in a line holding a long thin catheter. A screen in the background has an image of a heart.
Drs Heck and Martin (blue scrubs, middle) and a cath lab team performed the UK's first cases. 

The team which performed the UK’s first pulsed field ablation on Monday 13 June was led by consultant cardiologists Dr Claire MartinDr Patrick Heck and Dr David Begley, supported by nurses, cardiac physiologists and radiographers.

“This technology marks a step-change in electrophysiology and may well be the future of treating atrial fibrillation with catheter ablations,” said Dr Martin.

“I am very proud of the team for making Royal Papworth Hospital the first centre in the UK to offer this technology to benefit our AF patients from across the East of England, and would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work in making it happen.”

Heart maps on a screen, one on the left covered in purple and one of the right with less purple.
The left atrium pre (left) and post (right) ablation. Non-electrically active tissue (in grey) around the left and right pulmonary veins post-ablation will prevent atrial fibrillation initiating. 

Early studies from Europe have shown excellent outcomes and low complication rates using this new system. 

Royal Papworth will also be the lead centre in the UK for the upcoming Advantage-AF research trial which will collect further data on the effectiveness of this technique.