Atrial Fibrillation is a peculiar condition affecting the heart, characterized by rapid and irregular heartbeats. These are commonly referred to as arrhythmias and Atrial Fibrillation is the most common type of arrhythmia. The discovery of a safe and effective treatment for eliminating Atrial Fibrillation remained much of a challenge for doctors worldwide. There are many treatment options available for the treatment of atrial fibrillation, but in many patients who do not tolerate AF after trying the various options available, a new method of treatment is required. It is in such a scenario that Ablation treatment for Atrial Fibrillation came as a breakthrough in this field.
The cause of most arrhythmias is an electrical abnormality that occurs in the heart’s conduction system. The procedure for ablation follows mapping and localizing the source of the arrhythmia and destroying it. The source of the arrhythmia may be destroyed by the application of electrical energy, radiofrequency energy or freezing the malicious area by means of a flexible tube known as a catheter. This results in the formation of a scar. This scar is electrically inactive and thus rendered unable to create arrhythmias.
Ablation treatment has been highly successful in the treatment of a wide range of arrhythmias. Yet it was comparatively less successful in the treatment of Atrial Fibrillation. The main difficulty encountered in the use of ablation treatment for Atrial Fibrillation is that the source of the electrical anomaly is not localized as in most arrhythmias, but is generalized and covers most of the right and left atrium, the two upper chambers of the heart. As a result of this situation ablating this arrhythmia is very difficult. Although the approach to Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation in the past followed creating a series of complex linear scars throughout the atria, this technique was comparatively impractical using a catheter.
Is there a new ablation procedure for atrial fibrillation?
There are reports of a new procedure of ablation for treating Atrial Fibrillation. This new procedure for ablation is based on the fact that, in many patients, Atrial Fibrillation may originate from the pulmonary veins or the blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart. Therefore electrically isolating these veins by means of catheter based ablation techniques can prevent Atrial Fibrillation from occurring. This new procedure for ablation involves ablating in three or four specific areas within the left atrium, especially near the openings of the four pulmonary veins. This technique is seemingly much easier than the earlier used method of making a series of linear ablations and also offers the added advantage of precious time saved
The new procedure for Ablation treatment for Atrial Fibrillation has some drawbacks. It is seen to be most effective in patients suffering from “paroxysmal” Atrial Fibrillation, a condition that is characterized by brief episodes and is successful to a lesser degree with persistent Atrial Fibrillation. Even though the new procedure is comparatively quicker, it is still lengthy and carries with it the risk of stroke or neurological complications. This is due to the fact that the left heart is in direct link with the circulation of the body and hence, in the event of formation of a clot it might even travel to the brain. Another cause for concern is that performing ablation in and near the pulmonary veins can obstruct them and in the process lead to a very serious and potentially lethal condition known as pulmonary vein stenosis.
Sufficient improvements have to be made in the new procedure regarding the instrumentation and the techniques employed to cut down the length of the procedure and also to reduce the risk of deadly complications such as pulmonary vein stenosis. Only then will this new procedure become routine. Most doctors are therefore skeptical about the procedure and want to make sure it is effective and safe enough to carry out.