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Catheter ablation is a procedure to restore the heart’s incorrect electrical signals which cause an abnormal heart rhythm.

How is the procedure performed?

The ablation procedure is performed by a heart rhythm specialist called an electrophysiologist (EP). An EP is a cardiologist (heart doctor) who has had specialized training in diagnosing and treating heart arrhythmias. Your primary care physician or cardiologist can refer you to an EP, or you can search for an EP in your area using the button on the right.

During the procedure, a thin tube called a catheter is placed through a small incision in a patient's leg where it is then weaved up through a leg artery to the heart. Aided by 3-D imaging technology, an EP uses a catheter to produce a small scar on a specific part of the heart tissue. The procedure is done by either radiofrequency or cryoablation.

Radiofrequency ablation

There are two phases during a radiofrequency ablation: mapping and ablation.

Mapping

An EP creates a ‘map’ of your heart is made using catheters to identify the location of the abnormal electrical signal that is causing your arrhythmia. The mapping catheter has a tiny electromagnetic sensor in its tip that communicates with a 3D electroanatomical mapping and ablation system to create a picture of your heart. The resulting map gives your EP detailed information about how your heart looks and where the electrical circuit is broken.

Ablation

Once the EP has created a 3D map of your heart, the catheter is maneuvered to the areas identified by the map. The EP then uses radiofrequency waves to neutralize these small parts of your heart tissue that generate and conduct abnormal electrical activity. Ablation therapy blocks the faulty electrical impulses that cause your irregular heart rhythm.

Watch this video to learn more about catheter ablation:

Catheter ablation is a low risk procedure. As with any procedure, there are risks which include bleeding, swelling or bruising at the catheter insertion site.1, 2 Talk to your doctor about the risks of catheter ablation.

What are the benefits of catheter ablation?

Catheter ablation is more effective in preventing AFib recurrence than drug therapy, and is equally as safe. Patients receiving catheter ablation have been shown to be up to 73% more likely symptom-free at 4 years when compared to patients receiving drug therapy. 3, 4 Catheter ablation may result in the following benefits:

Improvement in quality of life1
Permanent symptom relief1
Elimination of long-term risk of stroke and death normally associated with AFib5

What are the success rates of catheter ablation?

There are many different factors that may predict the success of a catheter ablation procedure. These include disease progression, sleep apnea, obesity, increased LA size, age, and hypertension.1 Talk to your doctor about these factors prior to your procedure.

treatment-option4

Will catheter ablation improve my quality of life?

Treatment of AFib can restore quality of life, with the latest research showing that quality of life is improved significantly more after catheter ablation of AFib than with drug therapy. 7

At the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) 2018 Congress, results from the CABANA Trial regarding health-related quality of life improvements after catheter ablation were released. The study used five different quality of life surveys to assess several areas such as AFib symptoms, general health perception, physical functioning, psychological well-being, role and social functioning. The CABANA Trial results show that ablation provided incremental, clinically meaningful and significant improvements in AFib-related symptoms and quality of life compared to drug treatment for AFib.7

treatment-option5

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. The success of this procedure depends on many factors, including your physical condition and your body's ability to tolerate the procedure. Use care in the selection of your doctors and hospital, based on their skill and experience.

 
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