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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is a radio frequency catheter ablation and how does it help treat atrial fibrillation?

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    Dr Jason Kaplan

    Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

    Dr. Jason Kaplan is a specialist adult cardiologist and physician. Dr. Kaplan studied Medicine at UNSW and graduated with Honours in 1999 then completed his … View Profile

    Radio frequency catheter ablation is the use of radio frequency energy which is attached to the end of a catheter which is a thin tube that gets inserted usually either via the groin, via the under veins of the arteries of the groin into a person’s heart and these days we’re able to very accurately localize the origin of certain cardiac arrhythmia’s.

    Once we can localize the origin in the heart of these cardiac arrhythmia's, using very sophisticated and complex mapping and imaging techniques, we can use a low energy radio frequency energy to burn that pathway, so the arrhythmia is cured. In the last ten years or so, we have discovered the area in the heart that is responsible for the development of atrial fibrillation which is one of the most common arrhythmia’s that is seen in the fibrillation, especially for people over sixty years old. This arrhythmia usually occurs at the origin of the pulmonary veins. The average person has four pulmonary veins and they drain blood from the lungs into the left atrium. When we want to try and treat atrial fibrillation in someone using radio frequency ablation, we would place the catheters into the heart, and into the left atrium. We would then localize those areas at the origin of the pulmonary veins and place more burns around the origin of the pulmonary veins, and that helps treat atrial fibrillation. It is not a total cure for this condition, however with improving technology and improving operator technique, usually over 70% of people can get a sustained relief from atrial fibrillation. Some people do need one to two procedures for success.

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