The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued full guidance to the NHS in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland on cryoablation for atrial fibrillation in association with other cardiac surgery.
Atrial fibrillation is the irregular and rapid beating of the upper two chambers of the heart (the atria). It may be classified as paroxysmal, persistent or permanent. Patients with atrial fibrillation may be asymptomatic or they may have symptoms including palpitations, dizziness and breathlessness. They also have an increased risk of stroke as a result of blood clots forming in the left atrium and then embolising to the brain. Although atrial fibrillation may occur in the absence of other heart disease, it is particularly common in patients with mitral valve disease.
Cryoablation of the atria can be performed via a catheter introduced through a femoral vein but surgical cryoablation for atrial fibrillation is typically carried out in patients undergoing concomitant open-heart surgery, including mitral valve replacement or repair. A cryoprobe is used to freeze tissue along a pattern of lines rather than the incisions created in the traditional Cox maze surgery.
This guidance represents the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, healthcare professionals are expected to take this guidance fully into account. However, the guidance does not override the individual responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or guardian or carer.
Commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to implement the guidance, in their local context, in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations. Nothing in this guidance should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.
Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.