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How successful is AF ablation?

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Quick Answer

Ablation to treat atrial fibrillation is more complicated than other forms of ablation, and the fibrillation returns in 15 to 50 percent of patients within one to five years, says About.com. The most serious risk associated with ablation is stroke.

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Full Answer

Atrial fibrillation is the result of atypical electrical impulses in the heart, reports WebMD. The goal of cardiac ablation is to destroy the small section of tissue that is the origin of those impulses. Ideally, this is accomplished by inserting a catheter into the heart via veins in the groin or neck. The tips of the catheters contain electrodes that produce heat to cauterize and kill the desired section of tissue.

Cardiac ablation for atrial fibrillation is a difficult procedure because the impulses that cause atrial fibrillation often have more extensive origins than the impulses that cause other arrhythmias, according to About.com. Because of this, the time needed to perform the procedure is longer than that of other arrhythmias and carries a higher risk of complications. Atrial fibrillation recurs in 15 to 20 percent of patients within the first year after ablation and in 25 to 50 percent of patients in three to five years. Doctors recommend that patients take anticoagulants after ablation to reduce the risk of stroke, says WebMD. A doctor may also prescribe an antiarrhythmic medication, at least temporarily.

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