Journal Information
Vol. 39. Issue 4.
Pages 203-204 (April 2020)
Download PDF
More article options
Vol. 39. Issue 4.
Pages 203-204 (April 2020)
Editorial comment
DOI: 10.1016/j.repce.2020.07.006
Open Access
The art of transseptal puncture – lost in translation?
A arte da punção transseptal – perdida na tradução?
E. Infante de Oliveira
Corresponding author

Corresponding author.
, J. de Sousa
Cardiology Department, Santa Maria University Hospital (CHLN), Lisbon Academic Medical Centre, Cardiovascular Centre of the University of Lisbon, Faculty of Medicine, Lisboa, Portugal
Related content
Rev Port Cardiol. 2020;39:199-20210.1016/j.repce.2019.07.009
Jose Luis Martínez-Sande, Javier García-Seara, Laila González-Melchor, Moises Rodriguez-Mañero, Xesús Alberte Fernández-López, Jose Ramon González-Juanatey
Article information
Full Text
Download PDF
Full Text

Transseptal puncture emerged 60 years ago and its indications have changed progressively over the decades. Currently, it is a technique performed by multiple disciplines with different objectives and training protocols. Greater accuracy and technological sophistication have replaced the fine art of the classical technique, which was guided solely by fluoroscopy.

In the 1950s, there was growing interest in left heart catheterization. The initial approaches included puncture of the left atrium (suprasternal, posterior transthoracic or transbronchial) and apical or subxiphoid puncture of the left ventricle.1 John Ross, Andrew Morrow and Eugene Braunwald then developed transseptal puncture, which emerged as the standard technique to access the left heart.2,3 In the next decade, transseptal puncture was pivotal for the study of left ventricular function and the diagnosis of obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and left heart valvular disease. In the 1970s, retrograde left heart catheterization progressively replaced the transseptal puncture technique, only for it to recover in the 1980s with the emergence of balloon mitral valvuloplasty.4 Henceforth, the art of transseptal puncture was limited to specialized centers and dispersed among subspecialties. Interventional cardiology teams gradually lost their skills, due to the diminishing prevalence of rheumatic valve disease.

Subsequently, transseptal puncture was resurrected for atrial fibrillation ablation5 and electrophysiologists became the experts in the field. It became an everyday procedure for pulmonary vein isolation and atypical left atrial flutter or ventricular tachycardia ablation. More recently, interventional cardiologists refined the technique for new and demanding transseptal structural interventions, such as left atrial appendage closure, mitral valve repair, mitral valve-in-valve, valve-in-ring and valve-in-MAC (mitral annular calcification), and mitral paravalvular leak closure. Increasing demand for safety and efficacy, as well as for enhanced precision, increased the complexity and sophistication of transseptal puncture. Multimodality imaging, mainly with transesophageal or intracardiac echocardiography associated with fluoroscopy, became the default for many centers.6 What had been contraindications in the early days of transseptal puncture were overcome by the common use of multimodality imaging in conditions such as giant right atrium, severe rotational abnormalities of the heart and great vessels, kyphoscoliosis and marked dilation of the ascending aorta. Currently, the practice of transseptal puncture is varied, with different training requirements, performed by multiple subspecialties and tailored according to the demands of each intervention.6 Additionally, many aspects of the fine art of the classical technique were lost over the years, due to the introduction of different protocols and technologies.

The current issue of the Journal sees the publication of a small series by Martinez-Sande et al.7 of 22 patients with atrial fibrillation and contraindication for iodinated contrast administration, who were scheduled for pulmonary vein isolation. As an alternative to contrast administration, transseptal puncture was followed by the introduction of a 0.014-inch floppy guidewire, to confirm correct positioning and to facilitate sheath advancement into the left atrium. Success was achieved in all patients, without complications. The authors considered this variation of the technique to be a reasonable solution for patients with severe contrast allergy and renal insufficiency in centers that rely mainly on fluoroscopy, with limited access to transesophageal or intracardiac echocardiography. The studied technique variation is not original.8 In our opinion, a judicious classical technique with careful and accurate intracardiac pressure assessment avoids the use of a guidewire to confirm correct positioning. Nonetheless, we recognize the potential usefulness of this variation in difficult anatomies, in which crossing the septum is particularly challenging, requiring unusual sheath torqueing and forceful pushing. In these cases, the wire appears to provide extra safety by minimizing the risk of contact between the tip of the needle/dilator and the atrial free wall. We acknowledge the speculative nature of this debate given the fact that few or no trials have been performed in this field. However, it appears that wire-guided transseptal puncture does not mitigate the risk of crossing the muscular septum and is not a genuine alternative to multimodality imaging when a precise puncture is required.

In summary, transseptal puncture has been adapted and reinvented since its creation. It is still a demanding technique with a steep learning curve and considerable risk of severe complications. Technological advances have increased its accuracy and safety, but have undoubtedly also increased its complexity and affected the fine art of its beginnings. As the technique has been passed down through the generations, improvements have been sought and added, but some of its basic principles have been lost in translation.

Conflicts of interest

E. Infante de Oliveira declares research grants, educational grants and/or speaker / proctor / advisory board honoraries from the following companies: Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Abbott, Terumo, Volcano-Philips, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim, Astrazeneca, Daiichi-Sankyo, Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer.

J. de Sousa has no conflicts of interest to declare.

A.G. Morrow, E. Braunwald, J. Ross.
Left heart catheterization: an appraisal of techniques and their applications in cardiovascular diagnosis.
Arch Intern Med, 105 (1960), pp. 645-655
J. Ross, E. Braunwald, A. Morrow.
Left heart catheterization by the transseptal route: a description of the technique and its applications.
Circulation, 22 (1960), pp. 927-934
J. Ross, E. Braunwald, A.G. Morrow.
Transseptal left atrial puncture; new technique for the measurement of left atrial pressure in man.
Am J Cardiol, 3 (1959), pp. 653-655
K. Inoue, T. Owaki, T. Nakamura, et al.
Clinical application of transvenous mitral commissurotomy by a new balloon catheter.
J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg, 87 (1984), pp. 394-402
M. Haissaguerre, L. Gencel, B. Fisher, et al.
Successful catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation.
J Cardiovasc Electrophysiol, 5 (1994), pp. 1045-1052
B. O’Brien, H. Zafar, S. De Freitas, et al.
Transseptal puncture – review of anatomy, techniques, complications and challenges.
Int J Cardiol, 233 (2017), pp. 12-22
J. Martínez-Sande, J. García-Seara, L. González-Melchor, et al.
Use of an angioplasty wire in transseptal puncture: a new application of an old technique.
Rev Port Cardiol, 39 (2020), pp. 199-202
E.G. Daoud.
Transseptal catheterization.
Heart Rhythm, 2 (2005), pp. 212-214
Revista Portuguesa de Cardiologia (English edition)

Subscribe to our newsletter

Article options
en pt

Are you a health professional able to prescribe or dispense drugs?

Você é um profissional de saúde habilitado a prescrever ou dispensar medicamentos

en pt
Cookies policy Política de cookies
To improve our services and products, we use "cookies" (own or third parties authorized) to show advertising related to client preferences through the analyses of navigation customer behavior. Continuing navigation will be considered as acceptance of this use. You can change the settings or obtain more information by clicking here. Utilizamos cookies próprios e de terceiros para melhorar nossos serviços e mostrar publicidade relacionada às suas preferências, analisando seus hábitos de navegação. Se continuar a navegar, consideramos que aceita o seu uso. Você pode alterar a configuração ou obter mais informações aqui.