Radiofrequency (RF) Ablation
Like cryoablation, Radiofrequency (RF) ablation is performed using a catheter. Using real-time x-rays (fluoroscopy), the catheter is guided to the exact site where the cells are creating the abnormal heart rhythm. A RF wave is transmitted to the region, which destroys the cells that are causing the irregularity.
RF ablation is widely used and has been the most common treatment to date. Historically, the success rate has been 80% with few complications. Further, there is little to no discomfort for the patient during the entire procedure.
Who is a candidate for ablation therapy?
The best candidates are patients who are currently experiencing symptoms such as fatigue or palpitations and who have been unresponsive to medications. Most patients who undergo ablation therapy are under the age of 80, do not have overly large heart chambers and do not have adverse reactions to blood thinners.
Of course, other factors can come into play as well. The severity of the atrial fibrillation, the history of the patient, other diseases the patient has and medications currently being prescribed can all affect the use of ablation therapy.
What to expect during and after ablation therapy
The procedure is performed in the hospital so the patient can be carefully monitored before, during and after ablation therapy. Ablation therapy is usually conducted after an electrophysiology study, which identifies the areas of the abnormal pathways. This way, the physician has an exact location identified so the catheter can be guided there precisely, either using real-time x-rays (fluoroscopy) or robotic navigation technologies.
On average, the procedure takes four hours. Catheters are placed through small openings in the skin and then threaded through veins and arteries to the heart chambers. There, the abnormalities are destroyed, either through robotic ablation, cryoablation or radiofrequency ablation.
Recovery usually takes two to three days. Immediately after ablation therapy, you'll be asked to stay still for four hours so the skin entry sites can close and begin to heal. After your procedure, you may be hospitalized for one to two days if your doctor wishes to monitor your heart rate further. The majority of patients are able to go home the day after their procedure and can return to their normal activity in a few days.