Catheter ablation is a non-surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation that locates and destroys abnormal electrical pathways in the heart that cause the condition. Each year, the team at Northwestern Memorial performs about 700 ablations—many for patients with atrial fibrillation—with a high rate of positive outcomes.
Atrial Fibrillation Ablation Registry
At Northwestern Memorial, we catalog data from every patient who receives catheter ablation, creating a registry similar to those compiled on surgeries. By monitoring issues and outcomes over a wide range of atrial fibrillation patients, we are learning how to better care for our patients today—and how to improve therapies for the future.
Understanding Atrial Fibrillation
Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation
Radiofrequency catheter ablation offers many patients a cure for atrial fibrillation. Using the newest imaging technology, physicians first find abnormal electrical pathways in a patient’s heart.
During treatment, a small, flexible tube (or catheter) is inserted through veins in the groin, and directed to areas of the heart that generate abnormal electrical signals. Burning (or ablating) the abnormal pathways destroys their ability to transmit the electrical signals that cause atrial fibrillation.
Imaging performed during radiofrequency catheter ablation shows areas of the heart that generate abnormal electrical signals—the cause of atrial fibrillation.
Cryoballoon Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation
Cryoballoon catheter ablation is an alternative treatment for atrial fibrillation, and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This newer treatment freezes abnormal electrical pathways in the heart instead of burning them.
Experts at Northwestern Memorial believe cryoballoon ablation offers a viable alternative for some patients with atrial fibrillation. Research shows 70 percent of patients treated with cryoballoon ablation have no heart rhythm issues one year after surgery.
In cryoballoon catheter ablation, abnormal electrical pathways are frozen. In this video, dye is injected into a vein to show the treatment area. A balloon blocks the dye from leaving the vein, and the cardiologist can see exactly which area to freeze.
Team Approach to Treating Atrial Fibrillation
Patients undergoing catheter ablation treatment for atrial fibrillation receive care in our dedicated electrophysiology laboratory from a team of heart rhythm specialists under the leadership of Rod S. Passman, MD, medical director for the Program for Atrial Fibrillation, and Bradley P. Knight, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology. Electrophysiologists are cardiac specialists who focus on the electrical (or rhythm section) of the heart.
Atrial fibrillation is a complex disease requiring a multidisciplinary approach. We bring together a team of nationally recognized cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, cardiac electrophysiologists, nurses and other experts, who coordinate their efforts with your primary care physician or other referring health care provider. Dedicated nurse coordinators will follow your case, answering questions and managing the team.
Did you know that you have a 1 in 4 chance of developing atrial fibrillation?
Download your FREE guide to learn how you can benefit from Northwestern's Program for Atrial Fibrillation.
A Second Chance to Listen & Learn
Did you miss our webinar on "Advances in Mitral and Tricuspid Valve Surgery Plus: Atrial Fibrillation" featuring Drs. Bonow and McCarthy? The webinar is now available to view via video and eBook!
A Second Chance to Listen & Learn
Did you miss our atrial fibrillation seminar? It is now available to view via video!
The Beat on Atrial Fibrillation Seminar
For more information regarding atrial fibrillation, please call the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312-694-AFIB (694-2342) and ask to speak with one of our dedicated atrial fibrillation nurses. Jane Kruse and Mary Navarrete can provide information, answer questions and assist you with treatment options that best fit your needs. You can also request a first-time appointment online.
For more information regarding clinical trials related to atrial fibrillation, please visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an email or call 312-926-4000.
Our quality ratings provide detailed information about data we have collected about our healthcare performance. View our quality ratings related to atrial fibrillation.