Pharmacological therapies have traditionally been used as initial arrhythmia treatments, but they often fail to adequately control the disorder and may have significant side effects. Catheter ablation is now often recommended for an arrhythmia that medicine cannot control.
For patients who are candidates for ablation, an electrophysiology study is necessary to define the targeted sites for the ablation procedure. Catheter ablation involves advancing several flexible catheters into the patient’s blood vessels toward the heart. Electrical impulses are used to induce the arrhythmia and local heating or freezing is used to ablate (destroy) the abnormal tissue that is causing it. Catheter ablation of most arrhythmias has a relative high success rate.
- One study found that arrhythmia-free survival rates after a single catheter ablation procedure were 40%, 37%, and 29% at one, two and five years, respectively, with most recurrences over the first six months (“Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation – Are Results Maintained at 5 Years of Follow-Up?” J Am Coll Cardiol. 2011;57(2):160-166).
- Another study stated that catheter ablation of atrial fibrillation has been shown to be effective in approximately 80% of patients after 1.3 procedures per patient, with approximately 70% of such patients requiring no further antiarrhythmic drugs during intermediate follow-up (Updated Worldwide Survey on the Methods, Efficacy, and Safety of Catheter Ablation for Human Atrial Fibrillation Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. 2010; 3: 32-38).
Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation and Ventricular Tachycardia
Most cardiac arrhythmias are well understood and ablation simply requires treating a small area of heart tissue possessing electrical abnormality. In contrast, arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia have complex pathophysiologies because knowledge of their origins and mechanisms are incomplete. Therefore, ablation treatments for these arrhythmias are largely empirical.
Studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of atrial fibrillation ablation as compared to antiarrhythmic drug therapy, which has led to ablation’s acceptance as a primary treatment strategy.
Health Research International found that just in the US, the number of AF and VT ablations is forecasted to grow 10.5 percent annually from 2012 to 2017.