AF Information & Advice For Patients
Ablation for AFib
Successfully managing atrial fibrillation can be difficult. At some point, doctors will likely discuss the options for trying to treat the condition with you. The term ablation will be used frequently and in this context means the destruction of abnormal conducting tissue.
Using the various different types of ablation, the abnormal electrical signals within the heart can be blocked. The success of each approach varies and the type of AFib you have can play a role in the options that are available. Surgical procedures also carry small but significant risks that the doctors will discuss with you.
Ablation is not suitable for everybody and is currently indicated for those who have failed to respond to two different drug strategies and whose symptoms impact severely on their lives. The procedure has not been proven to make a person live longer or specifically reduce the AFib-related stroke risk but ongoing studies will hopefully answer these questions in the next few years.
The most frequently used form of ablation is catheter ablation. Trials and research have shown this style of ablation procedure to have relatively low complication rates and good success rates for the appropriately selected symptomatic AFib patients.
In some circumstances, surgical ablation is a very effective treatment. However, this is carried out by a cardiothoracic surgeon, and is usually considered for AFib patients either already undertaking an open-heart procedure, or for whom catheter ablation may not be the most appropriate option. Both catheter ablation and surgical ablation seek to stop future occurrences of AFib.
In some symptomatic AFib patients, it may be judged that neither surgical nor catheter ablation is appropriate, and antiarrhythmic drug therapies may either be contraindicated or no longer effective. Therefore an AV node ablation and pacemaker implant (pace and ablate) may be considered as a suitable option.
Unlike catheter or surgical ablation, this procedure does not stop the AFib or remove the stroke risk, but seeks to mask the unpleasant symptoms caused by the condition, particularly those related to the heart beating very fast.