Cardiac Ablation FAQs

What is cardiac ablation?

Cardiac ablation is a nonsurgical procedure that uses a thin bendable wire called a therapeutic catheter. This catheter is placed through a patient's vein and into the heart where the electrical impulses of the heart can be studied and treated.

If the heart rhythm doctor detects abnormal heart rhythms, he or she can use therapeutic catheters that emit radio frequency waves and generate enough heat to produce a small scar on a specific part of the heart tissue. This blocks faulty electrical impulses that can cause heart rhythm disorders.

How does cardiac ablation cure common arrhythmias?

Cardiac ablation targets the areas of the heart that generate faulty electrical pulses that cause rapid heartbeat. By neutralizing and blocking these areas, the pulses are controlled and a normal heartbeat returns.

Who performs the cardiac ablation procedure?

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 physician or cardiologist can refer you to an EP.

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 physician or cardiologist can refer you to an EP.

What factors should I take into account when considering cardiac ablation as a treatment option?

Safety
Cardiac ablation is a low-risk procedure that may cure the symptoms of your heart arrhythmia. 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. Typically, they can return to their normal life and activities.

However, as with any procedure, there are risks that potentially include bleeding or bruising, swelling, blood clots, a slow heart rhythm, or perforation of the heart muscle, blood vessel, or lung. This also means that medicines for controlling the arrhythmia can be reduced or stopped following successful cardiac ablation.

Complications from medicines used to manage arrhythmias can include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and drug toxicity as well as more serious complications. The complication rate for ablation is a comparatively low 1.6%.
Effectiveness
This chart shows effectiveness by comparing two treatments: catheter ablation and antiarrhythmics drug therapy. Over time patients who were treated with catheter ablation had considerably fewer recurrences of atrial fibrillation than those who were treated with drugs. This newer clinical study was published in JAMA, a leading medical journal in 2010.1

Study results demonstrated that catheter ablation for paroxysmal AFib is a much more effective treatment. In fact, 66% of patients treated with catheter ablation were free of Afib 1 year after the procedure compared to only 16% of patients treated with antiarrhythmic drugs.:

In terms of complications and adverse events, these were reported for 4.9% of catheter ablation patients vs. 8.8% for antiarrhythmic drugs patients.
400% more effective
Kaplan-Meier Curve

References:
1   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.
Quality of life
CATHETER ABLATION IMPROVES QUALITY OF LIFE.

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.1

Improvements in quality of life result from the elimination of arrhythmia-related symptoms such as palpitations, fatigue, or effort intolerance.1

Quality of life

References:
1   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.
Cost of treatment
Among patients with monthly episodes of common arrhythmias, ablation was the most cost-effective therapy. Compared to common, 2-drug therapy options, ablation also reduced lifetime medical expenditures by $27,900 compared with long-term drug therapy.*

*Ann Intern Med. 2000; 133: 864-876

Locate an Arrhythmia Specialist

Could cardiac ablation be right for you? Contact a specialist near you to learn more about this safe and effective arrhythmia treatment.

Locate an Arrhythmia Specialist

Could cardiac ablation be right for you? Contact a specialist near you to learn more about this safe and effective arrhythmia treatment.

Patient Experiences

These patients rediscovered the activities they had once lost, and can now enjoy life like never before. This was only possible after undergoing cardiac ablation.

Discussing the treatment options
Discussing the procedure