A catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation is a procedure in which a doctor guides a catheter into the heart through a vein and uses the catheter to deliver energy to areas of the heart that cause atrial fibrillation, explains WebMD. The procedure is usually done using local anesthetic and sedation.
Catheter ablation is ideal for patients who are unable to control the symptoms of atrial fibrillation with medications or who are unable to tolerate medications used to treat atrial fibrillation, according to Cleveland Clinic. Because atrial fibrillation often starts in the heart tissue that surrounds the pulmonary veins, the doctor ablates these areas and any other areas that may trigger the arrhythmia. The ablation stops atrial fibrillation by causing scar tissue to form, which prevents the abnormal electrical activity that causes the arrhythmia from reaching the rest of the heart tissue. Patients may experience recurrent atrial fibrillation in early recovery, but it usually stops within one to three months.
Recovery from catheter ablation may require one or two nights in the hospital, notes Cleveland Clinic. Patients sometimes experience chest discomfort and fatigue following the procedure. Normal activities can usually be resumed in two days or as directed by a doctor.