Mechanisms for enlarging lesion size during irrigated tip radiofrequency ablation: Is there a virtual electrode effect?

Helen Høgh Petersen, Javier Roman-Gonzalez, Susan B. Johnson, Jesper Hastrup Svendsen, Stig Haunsø, Douglas L. Packer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Introduction: Irrigated tip radiofrequency ablation of cardiac arrhythmias was developed to increase the size of the radiofrequency-induced lesion, since cooling of the electrode tip allows use of higher power settings. The purpose of this study was to determine if the increased lesion size during irrigated tip ablation is caused by the cooling effect solely or if increased electrical conductivity around the tip also contributes by increasing the "current-delivering size" of the tip: the so-called "virtual electrode effect." Methods and Results: In vitro strips of left ventricular porcine myocardium and in vivo canine left ventricles were ablated. In vitro closed loop tip and showerhead irrigated tip catheters were compared. In vitro and in vivo showerhead tip catheters irrigated with solutions having different ionic content were compared. We found no difference in lesion size for closed loop and showerhead-type catheters (998 ± 345 vs. 811 ± 313 mm3 during power-controlled ablation and 227 ± 76 vs 318 ± 127 mm3 during temperature-controlled ablation). For irrigation with liquids having increasing ionic strength we found a decrease in lesion volume in vitro (361 ± 249 vs. 812 ± 229 mm3 (P < 0.001) for power-controlled and 156 ± 78 vs. 318 ± 127 mm3 (P < 0.05) for temperature-controlled ablation and nonsignificant differences in vivo. Conclusions: The mechanism for enlarging lesion size during radiofrequency irrigated-tip ablation is that higher power levels can be used. There is no virtual electrode effect caused by the highly conductive surroundings of the tip during irrigation. In vitro this effect is shown to be opposite: It decreases lesion size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-177
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Interventional Cardiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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