Atrial Fibrillation Ablation

Atrial Fibrillation Ablation

What is it?

A surgical procedure which uses radio frequency ablation to disconnect abnormal electrical signals from reaching the heart.

How does it work?

During atrial fibrillation ablation, a thin wire (catheter) is positioned inside the heart near the pulmonary veins. Radio energy applied to the tip of the catheter and is used to cauterize (ablate or burn) the heart tissue around each pulmonary vein. As a result, theabnormal electrical signals from the pulmonary vein can no longer reach the rest of the heart and trigger atrial fibrillation.

Reasons for Atrial Fibrillation Ablation

This surgery is safe and has a high percentage of success in treating such arrhythmias as atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia, atrial flutter and Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome.

What to expect

The procedure will take place in the electrophysiology laboratory and takes between four to six hours to complete. Patients are admitted to the hospital overnight and can usually leave the day following surgery.

On the morning of the procedure or the day before, a special ultrasound (transesophageal echocardiogram) will be performed to look for blood clots in the heart. A sedative will be given so the patient is asleep or extremely drowsy. A local anesthetic will be given in both right and left groins and also on the right side of your neck. Tubes called sheaths will be placed in veins that are located in the groins and right neck. Thin wires (catheters) will be passed through the sheaths and be guided painlessly by X-ray to specific locations in the heart. These catheters are used to record electrical activity of the heart. A special ultrasound probe mounted on a catheter is also positioned in the heart. This ultrasound probe is used to “see” your heart structures and catheters.

With guidance by the ultrasound probe, a thin needle is then used to pass across the thin part of the wall that separates your right and left atrium. This allows the catheters to be placed in the left atrium. Radio energy is then applied to the left atrium around the pulmonary vein to perform the ablation. The ablation can be performed in a normal rhythm or during atrial fibrillation. During this time, the patient may feel a sensation of warmth or “heartburn.”

During the ablation, the patient is given intravenous blood thinners (heparin) to prevent blood clots. After the ablation is finished, the catheters are removed. The sheaths are removed after the blood thickens enough for safe removal.

St. Luke's Heart & Vascular