[Skip to content]

Royal Brompton & Harefield NHS Foundation Trust
For patients & carers
Search our Site

Atrial fibrillation (AF)

AF ablation

Ablation describes the process where we use a thin electrode catheter to "burn" heart tissue in order to prevent short circuits occurring. 
Catheter ablation is a keyhole technique during which a small flexible tube (or catheter) is directed to a specific area inside the heart to deliver heat energy to damage (or ablate) abnormally active heart muscle. 

When the symptoms of AF are difficult to control with medication or when medication is not tolerated or desired, catheter ablation may be recommended as the next step in a patients care.

In some cases, patients can have a more regular but complex atrial tachycardia (AT), which requires a similar ablation approach. Usually, these are patients who have had heart surgery, have congenital heart defects or have undergone a previous ablation procedure.

In patients with AF, it is often the muscle sleeves around each pulmonary vein (veins draining blood from the lungs into the top chamber of the left side of the heart), which are targeted for ablation energy. A significant number of patients with AF will become free of AF or notice a marked improvement in their symptoms following catheter ablation. In more persistent cases of AF or in cases of complex AT, other areas within the upper chambers of the heart (atria) will be targeted.

What is the aim of the procedure? 

The aim of this procedure is to improve the symptoms caused by AF / AT,  such as breathlessness, palpitations, lack of energy, light-headedness or chest discomfort. In some cases, it is performed to improve heart function. It may also reduce the amount of medicine you have to take, some of which may have potentially harmful side effects. 

Although there is some evidence that the procedure might reduce the risk of stroke in the long term, as the procedure also carries a small risk this is not its primary aim. 


Hill End Road, Harefield,
Middlesex, UB9 6JH
Tel: +44(0)1895 82 37 37

Royal Brompton

Contact our AF team

Harefield Hospital

01895 828979

Royal Brompton Hospital

020 7351 8364