Cardiac Ablation

Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disturbance that causes an irregular heartbeat.  It replaces the normal heartbeat, which originates in the sinus node.  During atrial fibrillation, the top chambers of the heart lose their normal organized electrical activity and develop a chaotic, unorganized rhythm that makes the bottom chambers beat irregularly.  This often feels like a fluttering sensation in the chest or palpitations.  Atrial fibrillation makes the heart less efficient and my result in symptoms of weakness, fatigue, dizziness, or shortness of breath. 

Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation  - comes and goes on its own, lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours or days.

Persistent or chronic atrial fibrillation - persists for more than 7 days once it comes on and usually lasts until a normal heart rhythm is restored by treatment.

AV node Ablation is very effective at eliminating the rapid and irregular heart beat.  A catheter is inserted into a vein in the area of the groin and positioned near the AV node, a nerve that conducts electrical impulses from the top chambers to the bottom chambers of the heart.  Radiofrequency energy is passed through the catheter to destroy the AV node. Eliminating the rapid and irregular heartbeats.  The heart rate usually drops to 30 beats per minute, and a pacemaker must be implanted to maintain a normal heart rate.  The pacemaker is an electronic device that is implanted on the upper chest, just under the skin. It is connected to 1 or 2 wires that are inserted through a vein and sit in the heart.  (See Pacemaker section of our website for more details). This procedure takes about 1 hour to perform and generally the patient spends 1 night in the hospital before going home. 

 Treatment of Atrial Flutter

Some patients with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation also have right atrial flutter, which results from a "short circuit" in the right atrium.  This causes symptoms that are similar to those of atrial fibrillation.  Most patients cannot tell the difference.  Radiofrequency energy can be used to cure right atrial flutter, with a 95% success rate and with a very low risk of complications. 

For additional information refer to this handout on The Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation