A few procedures may be recommended to treat AFib.
Catheter or cardiac ablation: This procedure can be used alone or in addition to AFib medicines.
How does catheter ablation work? A thin, soft tube (called a catheter) is inserted into a vein in the leg and carefully threaded to the heart. Small areas that are causing the abnormal heart rhythm are destroyed by burning or freezing them, creating scar tissue. This scar tissue blocks the abnormal electrical signals that can cause AFib.
The procedure can take up to a few hours. Some people can go home the same day; for others it’s an overnight stay. Talk with your health care team about the risks and benefits, and whether this is an option for you.
Ablation used to be saved for after medications were tried and didn’t work. But it is now recommended as a first option for certain people to fix the faulty electrical signals. That’s because more research has shown that, for some patients, catheter ablation works better than medications to prevent the disease from getting worse.
Other procedures include:
- Cardioversion – low-voltage electrical shock is applied to the chest with paddles to restore a normal rhythm
- Surgical maze – small scar lines are made on the heart to create a “maze” that prevents or redirects the abnormal beats from controlling the heart. This is done through open-heart surgery.
- Pacemaker – this device isn't usually used to treat AFib directly. But for people who have a slow heart rate during AFib, a pacemaker can help prevent your heart from beating too slowly or correct the effect of rate-slowing medicines.