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Demystifying AF Ablation: What You Need to Know

Updated: Feb 6

Atrial fibrillation (AF) can be a disruptive and concerning condition, but fortunately, there are treatment options available like an AF ablation procedure. While it may sound complex, let's break down the basics to help you understand what it involves:

The Procedure:

  • Performed under local or general anesthesia, often as a day case procedure.

  • Involves inserting thin tubes (catheters) into a leg vein and threading them to your heart.

  • The doctor uses various techniques (burning, freezing, or electrical shocks) to target and disable tissue causing AF, usually near the pulmonary veins.

  • If normal rhythm isn't restored, electrical cardioversion might be necessary.

Success Rates:

  • Vary depending on factors like AF type, duration, and overall health.

  • For intermittent (paroxysmal) AF, long-term success can range from 70-85% in some individuals for a single procedure.

  • Persistent AF may have lower success rates from one procedure (typically 50-60% but as low as 30% or less especially in certain cases).

  • Repeat procedures may be needed in 30-50% of cases, but overall success rates can reach >80% for paroxysmal and >70% for persistent AF.

Potential Risks:

  • Minor and temporary complications like bruising, chest pain, or temporary AF episodes are most common.

  • Nerve injuries affecting digestion or breathing can occur (1% chance), usually resolving within weeks.

  • Serious complications like blood leaks or leg vein injury occur in around 2% of cases.

  • The risk of death is less than 1 in 2,000, usually due to rare complications.


  • This information is for general understanding only and shouldn't replace a consultation with your doctor.

  • Discuss your individual case and risks with your doctor to make informed decisions about AF ablation.

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