BACKGROUND: Comparisons between segmental ostial disconnection of the pulmonary veins (PV) and circumferential ablation have produced conflicting results in patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (AF). The aim of this study was to evaluate a staged ablation procedure, every step of which was assessed by means of AF inducibility. METHODS: Twenty-two patients with paroxysmal AF were subjected to three ablation stages during one session: (1) circumferential ablation around the PV ostia, (2) segmental ostial PV isolation, and (3) ablation of areas within the circumferential lines with fractionated electrograms or voltage >0.2 mV as well as linear ablation at the mitral isthmus and the left atrial roof. Endpoint of the procedure was noninducibility of AF at any stage. RESULTS: Average radiofrequency energy delivery, fluoroscopy, and procedure times were 43 +/- 11 minutes, 40 +/- 11 minutes, and 3.8 +/- 0.5 hours, respectively. At 6-months follow-up, four patients experienced recurrence of AF (18%), whereas two additional patients (9%) had left atrial arrhythmias not registered before the procedure. Ninety-five percent of the patients who did not have inducible AF (regardless of the stage of ablation at which noninducibility was achieved) were free of recurrent AF, as opposed to none of the patients in whom AF was inducible at the end of the procedure (log-rank test, P < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: A staged ablation procedure combing circumferential and ostial PV ablation with AF noninducibilty as endpoint may result in high success rates without the need of prolonged ablation sessions in certain patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.