In many cases, patients who have received an ablation procedure either experience a long-term reduction in the number of symptomatic episodes and severity of symptoms, or a permanent return to normal heart rhythm.

This also means that medicines for controlling the arrhythmia may be reduced or stopped following successful catheter ablation. Complications from medicines used to manage arrhythmias may include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness and drug toxicity as well as more serious complications.

As with any procedure, there are catheter ablation risks that potentially include bleeding, swelling or bruising at the catheter insertion site, and infection. More serious complications are rare, which can include damage to the heart or blood vessels; blood clots (which may lead to stroke); heart attack, or death.

The complication rate for catheter ablation is a comparatively low 1.6%, as seen in a large, single-center retrospective study1.

Is catheter ablation effective?

A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine in February 2018 looked at the effectiveness of catheter ablation compared to medical therapy (rate and rhythm control). The study involved 363 patients with symptomatic paroxysmal or persistent atrial fibrillation who did not have a response to antiarrhythmic drugs, had unacceptable side effects, or were unwilling to take these drugs. The main outcome that the study monitored for was a composite of death from any cause or hospitalization for worsening heart failure.

The study found that, after a median follow-up of 37.8 months, the main outcome occurred in significantly fewer patients in the ablation group than in the medical therapy group. Only 28.5% of patients treated with catheter ablation experiences death from any cause or hospitalization for worsening heart failure versus 44.6% of the patients treated by rate and rhythm control medical therapies.

Will catheter ablation improve my quality of life?

Studies confirm that quality of life improves after catheter ablation.

A clinical study published in JAMA demonstrated that patients had greater improvements following catheter ablation than those on antiarrhythmic drug therapy.

The clinical study utilized a measurement tool, the SF-36, which is used to measure the quality of life of patients. The scores of patients treated with antiarrhythmic drugs did not significantly change from baseline (before treatment), while those treated with catheter ablation showed significant improvement.2 This group of patients felt significantly better after their catheter ablation recovery.

Improvements in quality of life result from the elimination of arrhythmia-related symptoms such as palpitations, fatigue or effort intolerance.2

In a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, quality of life measurements were obtained from a group of patients who had catheter ablation for long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation and another group of patients who had catheter ablation for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation [1]. The results from the two groups were then compared. Results showed that both groups experienced significant improvements in their quality of life. Additionally, while the patients with long-standing persistent AFib had worse quality of life than the paroxysmal AFib group before the procedure, the magnitude of improvement in that group was significantly greater.

If you are ready to speak to an Electrophysiologist about whether you are a good candidate for catheter ablation, use the search feature to the right to locate EPs in your area.

References from previously approved submission 020689-170815:

1 GE O’Hara, F Philippon, J Champagne, et al. Catheter ablation for cardiac arrhythmias: A 14-year experience with 5330 consecutive patients at the Quebec Heart Institute, Laval Hospital. Can J Cardiol 2007;23(Suppl B):67B-70B.

2 Wilber DJ, Pappone C, Neuzil P, De Paola A, Marchlinski F, Natale A, Macle L, Daoud EG, Calkins H, Hall B, Reddy V, Augello G, Reynolds MR, Vinekar C, Liu CY, Berry SM, Berry DA (2010) Comparison of Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy and Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation in Patients With Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA 303 (4):333-340.

Caution: US law restricts this device to sale by or on the order of a physician. Important information: Prior to use, refer to the instructions for use supplied with this device for indications, contraindications, side effects, warnings and precautions.

The NAVISTAR® THERMOCOOL®, EZ STEER® THERMOCOOL® NAV, THERMOCOOL® SF NAV, and THERMOCOOL SMARTTOUCH® Catheters are FDA approved for the treatment of drug refractory recurrent symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, when used with compatible three-dimensional electroanatomic mapping systems. Catheter ablation for AF may not be an option for you if you have any of the following conditions: certain recent heart surgery; prosthetic valves; active systemic infection; certain cancers; intracardiac thrombus, or an interatrial baffle or patch. Consult your physician to find out if catheter ablation is right for you.

As with any medical treatment, individual results may vary. Only a cardiologist or electrophysiologist can determine whether ablation is an appropriate course of treatment. There are potential risks including bleeding, swelling or bruising at the catheter insertion site, and infection. More serious complications are rare, which can include damage to the heart or blood vessels; blood clots (which may lead to stroke); heart attack, or death. These risks need to be discussed with your doctor and recovery takes time.

THERMOCOOL® Navigation Catheters are indicated for the treatment of recurrent drug/device refractory sustained monomorphic ventricular tachycardia (VT) due to prior myocardial infarction (MI) in adults.