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Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation: January 3, 2011

For those who suffer from atrial fibrillation or an irregular heartbeat, the treatment options are endless. "There are a lot of treatments and that's typically a very long discussion with many of the patients," says Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist Dr. Brian Taschner.

Depending on the severity of the condition, often times he will turn to medications and cardioversion tactics to restore a heart's rhythm back to normal. But if that doesn't work, "the ablation procedure is another procedure that is now offered for many patients."

During a radiofrequency catheter ablation procedure, a catheter is inserted into the heart and a special machine delivers energy to the areas of the heart that are creating irregular heartbeats. "Some people choose to have this done right away, just because they don't want to deal with the long term medications for the atrial fibrillation. The real indications are if patents are symptomatic despite medications," explains Dr. Taschner.

Cardiologists will take into account the patient's age, their symptoms, and other factors before considering this type of therapy. "The ablation is really, for me, the final step in most patients simply because it is invasive and the success rate, really at this point isn't much greater than the antirrhythmic medications."

The procedure usually takes between 2 and 4 hours. Patients are then observed for a few hours afterwards to see if rhythms return to normal. Sometimes an overnight hospital stay is required.