Ventricular tachycardias (VTs) can usually be treated by endocardial catheter ablation. However, some VTs can arise from the epicardial surface, and their substrate can be altered only by epicardial catheter ablation. There are two approaches to epicardial catheter ablation: transvenous and transthoracic. The transvenous approach through the coronary venous system (CVS) has been commonly used because it is easily accessible. However, this approach may be limited by the distribution of the CVS and insufficient radiofrequency energy delivery. Transthoracic epicardial catheter ablation has been developed to overcome these limitations of the transvenous approach. It is a useful supplemental or even preferred strategy to eliminate epicardial VTs in the electrophysiology laboratory. This technique has been applied for scar-related VTs secondary to often non-ischemic cardiomyopathy and sometimes ischemic cardiomyopathy, and idiopathic VTs as the epicardial substrates of these VTs have become increasingly recognized. When endocardial ablation and epicardial ablation through the CVS are unsuccessful, transthoracic epicardial ablation should be the next option. Intrapericardial access is usually obtained through a subxiphoidal pericardial puncture. This approach might not be possible in patients with pericardial adhesions caused by prior cardiac surgery or pericarditis. In such cases, a hybrid procedure involving surgical access with a subxiphoid pericardial window and a limited anterior or lateral thoracotomy might be a feasible and safe method of performing an epicardial catheter ablation in the electrophysiology laboratory. Potential complications associated with this technique include bleeding and collateral damage to the coronary arteries and phrenic nerve. Although the risk of these complications is low, electrophysiologists who attempt epicardial catheter ablation should know the complications associated with this technique, how to minimize their occurrence, and how to rapidly recognize and treat the complications that they encounter. This review discusses the indications, techniques, and complications of the transvenous and transthoracic epicardial catheter ablation of VTs.
- Catheter ablation
- Ventricular tachycardia