Alcohol septal ablation

Alcohol septal ablation (ASA, TASH, Sigwart procedure) is a percutaneous, minimally-invasive treatment performed by an interventional cardiologist to relieve symptoms and improve functional status in severely symptomatic patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) who meet strict clinical, anatomic and physiologic selection criteria. In carefully selected patients, when performed by an experienced interventional cardiologist, the procedure is successful in relieving symptoms in over 90% of patients.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition of the heart muscle which grows abnormally thick, in the absence of a physiologic cause such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or aortic valve disease. In a large subset of patients with hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy, thickening of the heart muscle in a particular part of the interventricular septum causes obstruction to blood being ejected from the left ventricle.

Alcohol septal ablation is a technique designed to reduce the obstruction to blood being ejected from the heart; the technique creates a small controlled heart attack, killing the area of heart muscle responsible for the obstruction, and eventually causing it to become less thick.


Alcohol septal ablation was first performed in Britain at the Royal Brompton Hospital by Ulrich Sigwart in 1994.[1] Since that time, it has quickly gained favor among physicians and patients alike due to its minimally-invasive nature, avoiding general anesthesia, lengthy recuperation and other complications associated with open heart surgery (septal myectomy).


Alcohol septal ablation is performed in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, and should only be performed by interventional cardiologists with specific training in the procedure (current guidelines suggest > 20 successful procedures to demonstrate competence). As such, it is only available in a few institutions. The technique is similar to coronary angioplasty, and utilizes similar equipment. Using wires and balloons to localize the septal artery feeding the diseased muscle under both fluoroscopic (x-ray) and echocardiographic (ultrasound) guidance, a small amount of absolute alcohol is infused into the artery to produce a small heart attack. Patients typically experience mild chest discomfort during the procedure, which takes approximately 60–90 minutes to complete. Analgesics and mild sedatives are administered as needed. Patients typically are maintained in the hospital for three to four days to monitor for any complications, including need for permanent pacemaker in 5-10%.


Relief of obstruction is noted immediately in the majority of appropriately selected patients. Clinical success is defined as a 50% or more reduction in peak gradient across the outflow tract, predicting continued improvement in gradient and cardiac remodeling over the ensuing 1 to 2 years. Over 90% of patients experience a successful procedure, with improvement in outflow tract gradient and mitral regurgitation. Patients typically report progressive reduction in symptoms, including improved shortness of breath, lightheadedness and chest pain. Serial echocardiograms are routinely obtained to follow the cardiac remodeling over time, and document reduction in outflow tract gradient.

When compared to surgical myectomy, similar outcomes are noted out to approximately 5 years.[2] However, a prospective, randomized trial has not been performed. Despite initial concerns regarding long-term arrhythmic potential of alcohol septal ablation, no increased risk has been noted to date. It is important to note that patients who fail to respond to alcohol septal ablation may still be candidates for surgical myectomy. Likewise, patients who fail surgical myectomy may still respond to alcohol septal ablation.[3] Which patients are best served by surgical myectomy, alcohol septal ablation, or medical therapy is an important topic and one which is intensely debated in medical scientific circles.[4]


  1. Sigwart U.; Non-surgical myocardial reduction for hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy; Lancet. 1995 Jul 22;346(8969):211-4; PMID 7616800
  2. Ralph-Edwards A, Woo A, McCrindle BW, et al. (February 2005). "Hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy: comparison of outcomes after myectomy or alcohol ablation adjusted by propensity score". J. Thorac. Cardiovasc. Surg. 129 (2): 351–8. doi:10.1016/j.jtcvs.2004.08.047. PMID 15678046.
  3. Juliano N, Wong SC, Naidu SS (October 2005). "Alcohol septal ablation for failed surgical myectomy". J Invasive Cardiol. 17 (10): 569–71. PMID 16204755.
  4. Heldman AW, Wu KC, Abraham TP, Cameron DE (January 2007). "Myectomy or alcohol septal ablation surgery and percutaneous intervention go another round". J. Am. Coll. Cardiol. 49 (3): 358–60. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2006.10.029. PMID 17239718.
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