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ISRN Cardiology
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 490674, 8 pages
Review Article

The Intrinsic Autonomic Nervous System in Atrial Fibrillation: A Review

1Department of Cardiology, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University, 238 Jiefang Road, Wuchang, Wuhan, Hubei 430060, China
2University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Heart Rhythm Institute, 1200 Everett Drive, Room ET6E103, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA

Received 24 March 2012; Accepted 22 April 2012

Academic Editors: A. Bobik, J. Osende, and M. Takahashi

Copyright © 2012 Bo He et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The procedure of catheter ablation for the treatment of drug resistant atrial fibrillation (AF) has evolved but still relies on lesion sets intended to isolate areas of focal firing, mainly the myocardial sleeves of the pulmonary veins (PVs), from the rest of the atria. However the success rates for this procedure have varied inversely with the type of AF. At best success rates have been 20 to 30% below that of other catheter ablation procedures for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, atrioventricular junctional re-entrant tachycardia and atrial flutter. Basic and clinical evidence has emerged suggesting a critical role of the ganglionated plexi (GP) at the PV-atrial junctions in the initiation and maintenance of the focal form of AF. At present the highest success rates have been obtained with the combination of PV isolation and GP ablation both as catheter ablation or minimally invasive surgical procedures. Various lines of evidence from earlier and more recent reports provide that both neurally based and myocardially based forms of AF can separately dominate or coexist within the context of atrial remodeling. Future studies are focusing on non-pharmacological, non-ablative approaches for the prevention and treatment of AF in order to avoid the substantive complications of both these regimens.