The role of atrial fibrillation (AF) substrates is unclear in patients with paroxysmal AF (PAF) that recurs after pulmonary vein isolation (PVI). We hypothesized that patients with recurrent post-ablation (redo) PAF despite PVI have electrical substrates marked by rotors and focal sources, and structural substrates that resemble persistent AF more than patients with (de novo) PAF at first ablation.In 175 patients at 11 centers, we compared AF substrates in both atria using 64 pole-basket catheters and phase mapping, and indices of anatomical remodeling between patients with de novo or redo PAF and first ablation for persistent AF.Sources were seen in all patients. More patients with de novo PAF (78.0%) had sources near PVs than patients with redo PAF (47.4%, p=0.005) or persistent AF (46.9%, p=0.001). The total number of sources per patient (p=0.444), and number of non-PV sources (p=0.701) were similar between groups, indicating that redo PAF patients had residual non-PV sources after elimination of PV sources by prior PVI. Structurally, left atrial size did not separate de novo from redo PAF (49.5±9.5 vs. 49.0±7.1mm, p=0.956) but was larger in patients with persistent AF (55.2±8.4mm, p=0.001).Patients with paroxysmal AF despite prior PVI show electrical substrates that resemble persistent AF more closely than patients with paroxysmal AF at first ablation. Notably, these subgroups of paroxysmal AF are indistinguishable by structural indices. These data motivate studies of trigger versus substrate mechanisms for patients with recurrent paroxysmal AF after PVI.
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