What Is It? Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation

What is Catheter Ablation?

Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure in which the doctor advances a flexible thin tube (catheter) through the blood vessels to your heart to ablate (stop) abnormal electrical pathways (signals) in the heart tissue.

The following animation demonstrates how the catheter ablation process works.

If you have atrial fibrillation (AFib) that has not responded to medication, your doctor may recommend catheter ablation. 

Catheter-based Procedures

The goal of catheter ablation is to prevent unwanted electrical currents from traveling from the pulmonary veins (blood vessels between the lungs and the heart) to the atria (the upper chambers of the heart). The standard ablation technique is called pulmonary vein isolation (PVI). During the procedure, catheters are used to ablate (stop) these abnormal electrical signals and prevent them from spreading and continuing to cause AFib.

Different catheter-based ablation devices and techniques may be used. They generally fall into two categories, based on the type of energy they apply.

1. Radiofrequency (RF) ablation is heat-based. Watch the video below to see how RF ablation works.

2. Cryoablation is cold-based. Watch the following video to see how cryoablation works.

Differences Between Radiofrequency Ablation and Cryoablation

Watch the following video to learn more about the differences between radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation.

Keep in Mind

Although many patients benefit from catheter ablation, results may vary. As with any medical procedure, there are benefits and risks. Your doctor can help you decide if catheter ablation is right for you.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.