Atrial fibrillation (AF) can make you feel as if your heart is about to leap out of your chest. If left untreated, AF can cause serious complications. For those patients who don’t respond to or cannot tolerate medications that regulate AF, pulmonary vein ablation is a safe and effective treatment.
Sometimes atrial fibrillation can recur months after you have had the procedure. The good news is that a repeat procedure is safe and it can get rid of the problem along with the increased risk of stroke associated with uncontrolled atrial fibrillation.
Doctors guide catheters (long, flexible tubes) into the atrium (upper chamber of the heart). Energy is delivered through the tip of the catheter to the tissue targeted for ablation. Small circular scars eventually form and block any inappropriate impulses firing from the treated areas.
If you experience temporary (paroxysmal) fibrillation that recurs a few weeks after the ablation procedure, chances are this problem will resolve itself, as it might be related to inflammation triggered by the healing process.
Recurrent fibrillation that occurs after the ablation recovery period can mean that you need an additional procedure or treatments to solve the problem.
Any atrial fibrillation that is constant or that doesn’t resolve on its own also increases the likelihood that you will need a repeat procedure.
Bruce Lindsay, MD, Section Head, Cardiac Electrophysiology and Pacing at Cleveland Clinic, says that even if you experience late-occurring, persistent fibrillation, that doesn’t mean that you are out of options. “Recurrence is more likely with persistent as opposed to paroxysmal AF, but repeat ablations are often effective and the cumulative success rate can be as high as 90 percent,” he says.
Even if you experience arrhythmia years after pulmonary ablation (occurring in only about 10 percent of patients) explains Dr. Lindsay, “in most cases another ablation will lead to success.”
If you have had an ablation and you have experienced a recurrence of arrhythmia after your recovery period, you should be re-evaluated by a specialist.
With an ablation, sometimes a repeat procedure may be necessary to control your atrial fibrillation – which can ultimately make you feel better.
The most important thing is to talk with your doctor and schedule your procedure at a center that has experience dealing with the treatment of atrial fibrillation.