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Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation & Atrial Flutter in Adults

Cardiac electrophysiologists at NYU Langone may use catheter ablation to correct—and even cure—the symptoms of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. This procedure allows your doctor to cauterize, or ablate, the tissue causing abnormal rhythms in the heart’s upper chambers.

Cardiac electrophysiologists at NYU Langone’s Heart Rhythm Center—a nationally and internationally recognized arrhythmia treatment center—pioneered catheter ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that has revolutionized the treatment of these arrhythmias by eliminating the need for surgery.

VIDEO: Dr. Larry Chinitz, director of the Heart Rhythm Center, explains how catheter ablation is used to treat arrhythmia.

Catheter ablations are performed in one of our four state-of-the-art cardiac electrophysiology laboratories using highly advanced imaging, mapping, and recording technologies to diagnose and to treat complex arrhythmias. Our experience treating a wide variety of arrhythmias has provided our experts with a vast clinical knowledge, experience, and expertise.

Catheter ablation uses radiofrequency energy, or high heat, to cauterize, or ablate, abnormal electrical pathways in the heart. This forms a scar, which cannot conduct electricity, thereby preventing abnormal heart rhythms. Sometimes, doctors perform cryoablation, which uses extremely cold temperatures instead of heat.

Catheter ablation is performed through a small incision in the groin. Your cardiac electrophysiologist inserts a long, thin, hollow tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and carefully guides it to the heart’s upper chambers using precision-guided imaging and three-dimensional integrated mapping systems.

A radiofrequency electrical current is sent through the catheter to destroy the heart tissue responsible for the arrhythmia. Sometimes, the openings to the pulmonary veins, which carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart, may also be ablated.

NYU Langone heart rhythm specialists use specialized catheters that provide information on how well radiofrequency energy is delivered to the surface of the heart. A sensor at the tip of the catheter receives a signal from an electrode attached to the chest to help the doctor pinpoint the electrical activity in the heart’s atria.

Heart ablation can take between two and four hours to complete. Recovery is different for everyone and can range from a few hours to overnight. After the procedure, you doctor may temporarily recommend avoiding driving a car or exercising.

This procedure may be performed at the same time as an electrophysiology study, a test that helps identify the source of an arrhythmia.

Renal Denervation for Atrial Fibrillation

Laboratory research in the Heart Rhythm Center has demonstrated that an overactive autonomic nervous system contributes to the development of atrial fibrillation. NYU Langone is a leading site in a new national trial to test whether disrupting signals from the autonomic nervous system by ablating the renal artery can improve the outcomes of catheter ablation in controlling atrial fibrillation.

The trial, known as Symplicity AF, is comparing the use of standard catheter ablation of the pulmonary vein with standard catheter ablation plus ablation of the renal artery. Your NYU Langone heart rhythm specialist can advise you on whether this clinical trial may be right for you.

Our Research and Education in Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter in Adults

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.