Effect of radiofrequency current on previously implanted pacemaker and defibrillator ventricular lead systems

Martin C. Burke, Douglas E. Kopp, Michael Alberts, Amit Patel, Albert C. Lin, John G. Kall, Mauricio Arruda, Peter Mazeika, David J. Wilber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We compared the response of endocardial lead systems to radiofrequency (RF) current delivered during atrio-ventricular junction ablation (AVJA) for atrial fibrillation with uncontrolled ventricular rate in 107 patients. The mean age was 67 ± 11 years and the mean ejection fraction 42 ± 15%. Patients were divided into 3 groups based on the type of ventricular lead present at the time of ablation: a previously implanted defibrillator lead (group 3, n = 13), a previously implanted pacemaker lead (group 2, n = 46) or a temporary lead (group 1, n = 48), which was subsequently followed by a permanent lead implantation. During AVJA, a median of 5 RF applications (44 ± 8 W) were given via 4-5-mm electrodes. All but 1 patient had right-sided lesions, while 6 patients also had left sided lesions. Ventricular pacing thresholds were evaluated immediately pre- and post-ablation at 24 hours and at 1 to 3 months. Increases in ventricular pacing voltage thresholds were noted in all 3 groups over time, with the greatest mean increase in group 3 patients: A greater than 2-fold increase in pacing thresholds was observed only with previously implanted leads, usually within the first 48 hours. It occurred significantly more often in patients with group 3 (6/13 [46%]) compared to group 2 (6/46 [13%], odds ratio 7.6, P = 0.006). A progressive rise in pacing threshold required lead revision in 2/13 group 3 patients (15%) and 2/46 group 2 patients (4%). While RF current has only minor effects on pacing threshold in most patients with previously implanted ventricular lead systems, clinically important alterations requiring device reprogramming or lead revision may occur. Group 3 are significantly more vulnerable to RF current, though the mechanisms are unclear. Group 1 during AVJA, followed by permanent lead implantation appears advisable. Pts with a previously implanted group 3 who require AVJA should be monitored closely.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-148
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Electrocardiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 11 2001


  • Ablation
  • Electromagnetic interference
  • Lead function

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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