Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation: How Does it Work?

Matilda Bowman knew something was wrong – seriously wrong. She’d been taking advanced-level step aerobics classes for 15+ years and typically had more energy than women half her age.

“It was in 2005. All of a sudden I’d get exhausted just climbing a flight of stairs,” she remembers. After an EKG at her doctor’s office suggested an irregular heartbeat, she was told to get to the hospital. Good Samaritan Hospital’s director of Cardiology and Electrophysiology, John Wilson MD, met her there. He immediately put Matilda on medication and during the ensuing weeks tried electric shock to restore her heart to its normal beat.

When neither approach was successful, Matilda opted for a procedure called catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation. “I won’t kid you, I was scared,” she recalls. “But everyone was super nice and worked hard to put me at ease before putting me under for the procedure.”

By delivering radiofrequency energy to specific areas of Matilda’s heart, Dr. Wilson caused scarring that destroyed the cells that were misfiring and causing her heart to beat erratically. In doing so, he eliminated her arrhythmia. “I don’t even have a scar,” she says. “He reached my heart by inserting a catheter in my leg.”

Following the two-hour procedure, Matilda spent just one night in the hospital. Although her energy was restored soon after returning home, “I took it easy for awhile just to be sure.”

Today, four years later, this 75-year-old great grandmother is thrilled the procedure restored her energy without the need for medication. She’s back to the gym and the step-aerobics class she enjoys so much. “Except when the weather is nice. Then I take long walks in the park instead,” she laughs.

Tags Heart

Last Updated: February 24, 2015