Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Catheter Ablation is an invasive procedure that offers the prospect of an improved quality of life. It involves the insertion of catheters, or fine wires, into the heart through the veins at the top of the leg. There are electrodes at the tip of the wires that detect electrical signals from different parts of the heart. Radio waves are used to create heat that destroys (ablates) the electrical signals that are responsible for triggering Atrial Fibrillation (AF). These signals are usually located inside the pulmonary veins in the majority of patients and this technique is called Pulmonary Vein Isolation. Pulmonary vein isolation can be achieved through freezing around the the origin of the veins referred to as cryoablation. There are few differences between the two techniques and your cardiologist will advise which is the optimal strategy for you.
Patients who have been in AF for a long time may need a more extensive ablation procedure to restore normal rhythm. Success rates of Catheter Ablation for Paroxysmal AF are approximately 70-80% and often more than one procedure is required to achieve success. The success rates are less if you have been in atrial fibrillation for a long time. The procedure is associated with a low rate of risks but some of these can be serious and can potentially affect your quality of life long term, so it is important that you are assessed by an expert in this field.