Atrial fibrillation ablation is a procedure used to treat arrhythmias that originate in the heart’s atria. The typical symptoms of atrial fibrillation, including shortness of breath and fatigue, are usually improved or eliminated by the procedure. Left untreated, atrial fibrillation can greatly increase your risk of stroke.

Cardiac ablation involves scarring the heart tissue that is causing the arrhythmia by sending electrical impulses which fail to coordinate heartbeats properly. By scarring or destroying this tissue, cardiologists who specialize in the electrical system of the heart can eliminate the faulty signals and stabilize the heartbeat.

If you’re experiencing atrial fibrillation, it is likely to get worse without treatment. Atrial fibrillation ablation is recommended in cases where treating arrhythmia with medication doesn’t improve symptoms. Here’s what to expect if you’re undergoing an atrial fibrillation ablation procedure:

Types of Cardiac Ablation

There are three types of atrial fibrillation ablation:

  • Catheter ablation — a frequently used type of ablation consisting of applying extreme cold or heat to scar the heart tissue through a catheter;
  • Maze procedure — an open-heart surgery usually used in combination with other open-heart procedures, consisting of creating a maze of scar tissue on the atria with a scalpel;
  • Atrioventricular node ablation — used for treating arrhythmia in the atrioventricular area of the heart by scarring the AV node tissue.

The type of procedure your heart physician will recommend you undergo will depend on your arrhythmia, as well as other cardiovascular disease symptoms. However, catheter ablation is the standard type and the one that is performed most frequently.

Catheter Ablation Procedure

Before the procedure, you’ll discuss your preparation with your heart physician. Usually, they will instruct you not to eat or drink the night before the procedure, as well as to stop taking certain medications a few days before.

The procedure itself starts with applying a sedative or general anesthetic, followed by catheter insertion through one of the several possible entry points near a suitable vein. Using the electrodes at the tips of the inserted catheters, the doctor will evaluate your heart’s electrical activity to find the spot that’s causing the arrhythmia. Additionally, X-ray imaging can help. It consists of injecting dye into the catheter, which allows the doctor to see the blood vessel structure better.

Once the tissue causing the arrhythmia is located, catheter tips can be used to destroy it, either with radiofrequency ablation, which creates heat, or with cryoablation, which creates cold. The procedure itself can take between 3 to 6 hours if there are no complications.


Recovery from atrial fibrillation ablation doesn’t take long. You can expect to return to your normal day-to-day activities in a matter of days, and even go home the same day. However, regular checkups with your heart physician are required to monitor the state of your blood pressure and heartbeat.

Your heart health matters to us at Premier Heart & Vascular Center. If you have any concerns about your cardiovascular health or more questions about atrial fibrillation ablation, our highly-skilled team of heart physicians will happily answer your inquiries.

Visit our website to find out more about the procedures we perform.