Skip to main content

Unfortunately we don't fully support your browser. If you have the option to, please upgrade to a newer version or use Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, or Safari 14 or newer. If you are unable to, and need support, please send us your feedback.

Publish with us
Press release

Shorten the Blanking Period After Atrial Fibrillation Ablation, Experts Say

Philadelphia | April 17, 2024

New evidence published in Heart Rhythm underpins why the blanking period should be shortened

New evidence-based research calls into question the conventional three-month blanking period immediately after atrial fibrillation (AF) ablation, when early occurrences of AF are thought not to predict long-term AF recurrence. Two articles and an accompanying editorial in Heart Rhythmopens in new tab/window, the official journal of the Heart Rhythm Society, the Cardiac Electrophysiology Society, and the Pediatric & Congenital Electrophysiology Society, published by Elsevier, address the controversy and recommend shortening the blanking period.

Early recurrence of atrial tachyarrhythmia (ERAT) is commonly seen following catheter ablation of AF, with reported incidences of up to 61% in the first three months. ERAT is often attributed to transient inflammation induced by tissue damage during ablation and short-term imbalances in autonomic innervation. This forms the physiologic rationale for the accepted convention of a three-month blanking period, during which arrhythmia recurrences are presumed to be relatively benign and not indicative of treatment failure. However, this reasoning disregards valuable data regarding early arrhythmia recurrences and their potential significance.

The authors of the editorialopens in new tab/window accompanying the two articles in Heart Rhythm call for the three-month blanking period to be reconsidered and posit that it might be time to "blank the blanking period" altogether. Lead author Jonathan M. Kalman, MBBS, PhD, from the Department of Cardiology, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Australia, says, "With increasing data indicating that early AF recurrence is a predictor of late recurrence, the three-month blanking period has been called into question. Although clinical trials assessing AF ablation have traditionally defined treatment success by the time to first AF recurrence, the use of such a binary efficacy outcome lacks clinical grounding and represents an oversimplification of the impact of ablative therapy."

Lead author of the article “Defining the blanking period, using continuous ECG monitoring, after cryoballoon pulmonary vein isolationopens in new tab/window, Dan Musat, MD, from The Valley Hospital and The Snyder Center for Comprehensive Atrial Fibrillation, Ridgewood, NJ, USA, notes, "Multiple studies have challenged the duration of the blanking period. Our study used continuous monitoring and showed that both the timing of the last ERAT episode and the burden of ERAT show congruent results; any ERAT after the first month portends a worse outcome. Our data show that the ~1/3 of patients in whom ERAT occurs and/or have a burden of >0% after the first month post-cryoballoon pulmonary vein isolation, are at significantly higher risk of long-term recurrent AF. These findings lead us to consider changing the duration of the blanking period post-AF ablation to one month from the current three months."

Caption: Based on continuous monitoring of early recurrence of atrial tachyarrhythmia immediately after patients have undergone atrial fibrillation ablation, Musat et al.opens in new tab/window recommend shortening the blanking period from three months to one (Credit: Dan Musat).

Co-author Suneet Mittal, MD, from The Valley Hospital and The Snyder Center for Comprehensive Atrial Fibrillation, Ridgewood, NJ, USA, adds, “Our findings also demonstrate the value of continuous long-term ECG monitoring, because information about the presence and burden of AF can help inform clinical decision-making in patients following cryoballoon pulmonary vein isolation.”

In "Early atrial fibrillation recurrence post catheter ablation: Analysis from insertable cardiac monitor in the era of optimized radiofrequency ablationopens in new tab/window," De Becker et al. also emphasize the importance of continuous monitoring. They compiled data from Close-To-Cure and Close Maze studies, encompassing 165 patients who underwent radiofrequency (RF) ablation for paroxysmal or persistent AF. All patients were implanted with an insertable cardiac monitor two to three months before ablation. The study found that patients experiencing ERAT had a substantially higher risk of late recurrence, and the burden of ERAT during the blanking period was a significant predictor.

Lead investigator Benjamin De Becker, MD, from the Cardiology Department, AZ Sint Jan, Bruges, Belgium, explains, "During the blanking period, ERAT burden and ERAT occurring during the third month are independently associated with late recurrence. ERAT occurring after 64 days post-ablation was associated with a very high risk of late recurrence in both paroxysmal and persistent AF patients, suggesting that the conventional blanking period could be shortened. A blanking period post-AF ablation is mandatory to avoid unnecessary ablation because of procedural-induced arrhythmogenicity, and to avoid the occurrence of later repermeabilization of the RF lesions, which could require further reablation. Our research proposes that a two-month post-ablation blanking period would be an acceptable tradeoff, minimizing the risk of an unnecessary repeat procedure. After this two-month period, atrial tachyarrhythmia occurrence is highly predictive of subsequent recurrences."

Professor Kalman concludes, "In light of this new evidence, a more stringent interpretation of these studies' findings might be that the very notion of a blanking period should be reconsidered. We believe that these data support a recommendation to eliminate the blanking period."

Notes for editors

The articles are:

"Defining the blanking period, using continuous ECG monitoring, after cryoballoon pulmonary vein isolation," by Dan L. Musat, MD, Nicolle S. Milstein, MS, Matthew Saberito, MS, Advay Bhatt, MD, FHRS, Mohammadali Habibi, MD, Tina C. Sichrovsky, MD, FHRS, Mark W. Preminger, MD, Richard E. Shaw, PhD, Suneet Mittal, MD, FHRS ( in new tab/window).

The article is openly available for 30 days at in new tab/window. Journalists who wish to interview the study's authors should contactErin Blake at +1 201 291 6407 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window.

“Early atrial fibrillation recurrence post catheter ablation: Analysis from insertable cardiac monitor in the era of optimized radiofrequency ablation,”byBenjamin De Becker, MD, Milad El Haddad, Msc, PhD, Maarten De Smet, MD, PhD, Clara François, MD, René Tavernier, MD, PhD, Jean-Benoit le Polain de Waroux, MD, PhD, Mattias Duytschaever, MD, PhD, Sébastien Knecht, MD, PhD ( in new tab/window).

The article is openly available for 30 days at in new tab/window.

The editorial is “Early postablation atrial fibrillation recurrence: Time to blank the blanking period?,”by Sohaib Virk, BMed/MD, BSc (Med), MMed, and Jonathan M. Kalman, MBBS, PhD

( in new tab/window).

The editorial is openly available for 30 days at in new tab/window.

The articles appear online in advance of Heart Rhythm, Volume 21, Issue 5 (May 2024) published by Elsevier.

Full text of the articles is also available to credentialed journalists upon request; contact Jane Grochowski at +1 406 542 8397 or [email protected]opens in new tab/window.

About Heart Rhythm

Heart Rhythmopens in new tab/window, the official Journal of the Heart Rhythm Societyopens in new tab/window, the Cardiac Electrophysiology Societyopens in new tab/window, and the Pediatric & Congenital Electrophysiology Societyopens in new tab/window, is a unique journal for fundamental discovery and clinical applicability. It integrates the entire cardiac electrophysiology (EP) community from basic and clinical academic researchers, private practitioners, engineers, allied professionals, industry, and trainees, all of whom are vital and interdependent members of our EP community. www.heartrhythmjournal.comopens in new tab/window

About the Heart Rhythm Society

The Heart Rhythm Societyopens in new tab/window is the international leader in science, education, and advocacy for cardiac arrhythmia professionals and patients, and the primary information resource on heart rhythm disorders. Its mission is to improve the care of patients by promoting research, education, and optimal healthcare policies and standards. The Heart Rhythm Society is the preeminent professional group representing more than 8,000 specialists in cardiac pacing and electrophysiology from more than 94 countries. www.HRSonline.orgopens in new tab/window

About Elsevier

As a global leader in scientific information and analytics, Elsevier helps researchers and healthcare professionals advance science and improve health outcomes for the benefit of society. We do this by facilitating insights and critical decision-making with innovative solutions based on trusted, evidence-based content and advanced AI-enabled digital technologies.

We have supported the work of our research and healthcare communities for more than 140 years. Our 9,500 employees around the world, including 2,500 technologists, are dedicated to supporting researchers, librarians, academic leaders, funders, governments, R&D-intensive companies, doctors, nurses, future healthcare professionals and educators in their critical work. Our 2,900 scientific journals and iconic reference books include the foremost titles in their fields, including Cell Press, The Lancet and Gray’s Anatomy.

Together with the Elsevier Foundationopens in new tab/window, we work in partnership with the communities we serve to advance inclusion and diversity in science, research and healthcare in developing countries and around the world.

Elsevier is part of RELXopens in new tab/window, a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. For more information on our work, digital solutions and content, visit



Jane Grochowski



+1 406 542 8397

E-mail Jane Grochowski