In patients for whom cardioversion and medication are unsuccessful, catheter ablation is often recommended. This procedure is minimally invasive and involves advancing a catheter from a blood vessel in the groin or neck until it reaches the area of the abnormal circuit. The catheters used for the operation have electrodes mounted on them that can monitor the patient's heart rhythm and also send out electrical signals. Doctors first monitor the heart rhythm, and once they locate a particular safe point in the rhythm, they destroy the abnormal heart circuit through either high heat or freezing temperatures.
Ablation usually takes between two to three hours, and patients are transported to a recovery area for monitoring once the ablation has been completed. While many patients can be released to go home the same day, some patients may need to spend a night in the hospital. Doctors monitor the patient's heart rhythms closely at follow-up appointments. If necessary, ablation procedures can be repeated.