Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Catheter ablation for afib

Q. I have been taking a heart rhythm medicine to treat my atrial fibrillation. However, it is not working very well. Should I consider a catheter ablation procedure or try other medicines first?

A. Catheter ablation uses a zap of radiofrequency heat energy to burn away cells that cause atrial fibrillation (afib). According to the 2014 guidelines from the American College of Cardiology on afib management, there is a role for catheter ablation if symptoms continue despite the use of medications. Some research even suggests that this procedure may be better than medications for eliminating afib symptoms in the short run. However, symptoms sometimes return a couple of years after the procedure.

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