Ganglionated plexi as neuromodulation targets for atrial fibrillation

Eue Keun Choi, Ye Zhao, Thomas H. Everett, Peng Sheng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The autonomic nervous system plays an important role in the genesis of atrial fibrillation and is one of the candidate targets for atrial fibrillation therapy. This review focuses on the role of the autonomic nervous system in atrial fibrillation development and discusses the results of the ganglionated plexi catheter and surgical ablation in preclinical and clinical studies. The heart is innervated by the extrinsic and intrinsic autonomic nervous systems. The intrinsic autonomic nervous system consists of multiple ganglionated plexi and axons, which innervate the neighboring atrial myocardium and control their electrophysiological properties. Abnormal autonomic innervation has been observed in an animal model of atrial fibrillation and in humans. Direct recordings of autonomic nerve activity in canine models showed that atrial tachyarrhythmia episodes were invariably preceded by intrinsic cardiac autonomic nerve activity, thus supporting the importance of intrinsic cardiac autonomic nerve activity as the triggers for atrial tachyarrhythmia. Targeting ganglionated plexi with catheter ablation improves the outcomes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation ablation in addition to pulmonary vein antrum isolation. Ablation of ganglionated plexi alone without pulmonary vein isolation is also useful in controlling paroxysmal atrial fibrillation in some patients. However, surgical ganglionated plexi ablation in patients with a large left atrium, persistent atrial fibrillation, and/or a history of prior catheter ablation does not result in additional benefits. These different outcomes suggest that ganglionated plexi ablation is effective in managing patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, but its effects in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation and advanced atrial diseases might be limited.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1485-1491
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of cardiovascular electrophysiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • atrial fibrillation
  • autonomic nervous system
  • catheter ablation
  • ganglionated plexi
  • surgical ablation
  • vagus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)

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