Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation

Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive technique that can be used when medication fails to control the heart rhythm.

The goal of catheter ablation is to prevent unwanted electrical currents from traveling from the pulmonary veins and spreading to the upper chambers of the heart. The pulmonary veins are large blood vessels that carry blood from the lungs to the left atrium. During the procedure, catheters are used to terminate (ablate) these abnormal electrical circuits and stop them from spreading and continuing to cause Afib.

There are two types of catheter ablation techniques: Cryoablation and Radiofrequency (RF) Ablation.


St. John's Hospital Camarillo acquired the highly specialized Cryoconsole that allows doctors to perform the cryoablation procedure. During this minimally invasive procedure, a thin flexible tube called a balloon catheter is used to locate and freeze the heart tissue that triggers an irregular heartbeat.

The cryoablation technique restores normal heart rhythm by disabling heart cells that create an irregular heartbeat.  More than 80 percent of patients with paroxysmal Afib treated with the cryoballoon achieve freedom from Afib at one year.

Cryoablation has been shown to improve quality of life for patients and significantly reduce symptoms, with patients experiencing reduction in Afib episodes, palpitations, fatigue, rapid heartbeat, swelling, and syncope. 

Radiofrequency Ablation

This nonsurgical procedure is used to treat some types of rapid heart beating, such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and atrial tachycardia. During the procedure a physician guides a catheter with an electrode at its tip to the area of the heart muscle where the damaged site is located. Then a mild, painless radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) is transmitted to the site of the pathway. Heart muscle cells in a very small area die and stop conducting the extra impulses that caused the rapid heartbeats.