Radiofrequency Ablation

         Basic Facts

  • Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment for cardiac arrhythmias, which are abnormalities or disturbances in the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat.
  • Radiofrequency ablation uses an electric current to damage targeted heart tissue that is causing an arrhythmia.
  • During ablation, a physician inserts a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into the heart and delivers energy through the catheter to tiny areas of the heart muscle that cause the abnormal heart rhythm. 
  • Physicians use ablation when other treatments, such as medication, lifestyle changes, pacemakers, or defibrillators, are not effective, or if the patient is highly symptomatic or unwilling/unable to take long-term medication.

During radiofrequency ablation, one or more catheters are threaded through the blood vessels to the inner heart. Catheters are positioned along electrical pathways in that area causing the arrhythmia. Electrodes at the catheter tips are heated with radiofrequency energy, which damages (ablates) a small spot of heart tissue and creates an electrical block along the pathway that is causing the arrhythmia. Physicians can use other forms of energy as well, including laser energy and cryoablation. 

Arrhythmias that physicians treat with radiofrequency ablation include:

  • Atrial flutter, (coordinated rapid heartbeat)
  • Atrial fibrillation (chaotic electrical activity in upper chambers of the heart),
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (rapid heart rate), 
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (extra electrical pathway causing a rapid heartbeat), and 
  • Ventricular tachycardia (an abnormally fast heartbeat that originates in the upper chambers of the heart). 

Radiofrequency Ablation FAQ