Jefferson University Hospitals

Atrial Fibrillation Ablation

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AF) and drug therapy has proven ineffective, you may be a candidate for a procedure performed at Jefferson called atrial fibrillation ablation (Afib). Afib, in many cases, can eliminate AF entirely, enabling patients to no longer require medication.

Jefferson's skilled cardiac arrhythmia specialists are trained to treat patients whose arrhythmias are difficult to control and who should seriously consider the option of catheter ablation.

AF treatment also concentrates on protecting you from blood clots that may lead to stroke. Your physician may prescribe a medication called an anticoagulant to prevent clots from forming or growing.

We use the latest computer-aided diagnostic evaluation techniques, including computerized electroanatomic mapping systems, with merged CT and ultrasound imaging to more precisely locate and assess rhythm disorders.

What Does Atrial Fibrillation Ablation Involve?

During this procedure, physicians insert small catheters into the heart and apply radiofrequency current to target or ablate areas that may trigger or sustain AF. Physicians can heat catheters up the tip and actually cause selective destruction of the heart cells that are causing atrial fibrillation in the first place. The catheter tip actually delivers high-energy waves that destroy certain areas of the heart very selectively. The goal is to isolate electrical activity from the pulmonary veins, sites that often initiate or trigger atrial fibrillation.

Afib takes approximately 4 to 6 hours to perform and usually requires an overnight hospital stay. Following successful ablation, the patient's symptoms are often greatly reduced or completely suppressed.

Only about 20 percent of patients who receive no treatment for atrial fibrillation are likely to maintain a normal rhythm one year later. When our best anti-arrhythmic drugs are used, about 50 percent of patients can maintain normal rhythm one year out. By contrast, 75 percent of our patients remain in normal rhythm a year after undergoing Afib. However, measuring success requires time for healing to occur or for ablation lesions to mature; this may take up to three to four months.