ABLATION: I am trying to understand how... - AF Association

AF Association

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Shcldavies profile image

I am trying to understand how successful an ablation is but just cannot get my head around summarising the very different outcomes everyone experiences. In general terms can it be a complete permanent cure or does it just help with the symptoms. My view at this time is that it can provide a permanent cure around 50% of he time if you have Flutter but for all other conditions there are varying degrees of improvement (most have significant improvement) for varying time periods (up to 10 years). I am in the process of going down the ablation route and I am very apprehensive as well as desperate to get it done all at the same time so any views would be much appreciated (especially from anyone that has had or knows of anyone that have had a complete cure).

27 Replies
BobD profile image

ALL and ANY treatment for AF is ony ever about improving quality of life.(QOL) There is no cure as it is not a disease, it is a condition. The condition will remain and can raise its ugly head again in the future. Ablation must be considered part of ongoing treatment and may have to be repeated at some time.

If you rely on this forum for data it will be seriously flawed as people with succesful ablations tend not to stay as they no longer meed our support.

What is success? Well I went ten years with AF after my last ablation but now have a different arrhythmia which I am hoping to have ablated later this year. Has it been worth it.? Absolutely! Not having AF enabled me to have a life saving operataion for cancer which doctors would have been reluctant to attempt had I still been in AF. We now know that the proposed radiotherapy alone would have failed as the cancer had already spread as discovered during the operation. Seven years later (nearly eight) and I'm still here although is there a 100% guaranteed cure from cancer either?

Success can be anything from greatly reduced symptom burden but continued drugs (especially anticoagulation) to no symptoms and no drugs with everything in between but it is the best chance of improved QOL if done early but must be accompanied by life stsyle changes as oftne discussed here. Use search box for details.

Shcldavies profile image
Shcldavies in reply to BobD

Thank you for your reply, it's good to have an independant view as I know I can distort everything I read depending on my condition at the time. I have been reading your earlier posts for about a year now and sympathys with your recent set back and ongoing quest for a normal life, it's your pragmatic approach to your condition that I try to emulate but I am still trying to get as many fact as I can. Your point regarding the active members is well made, perhaps I will never fully know of the number of really successful treatments. Perhaps you could answer one more question please. During an ablation some have a burning pain during the actual ablation and some say they do not get any pain, is this dependant on the use of LA or GA (if your awake you will have pain but if your knocked out you do not feel anything).

BobD profile image
BobDVolunteer in reply to Shcldavies

I have only ever had GA as my EP says he doesn't want to be bothered by worrying about the patient and leaves that to the anaesthetist . With sedataion there is no anaesthatist which is why some hospitals do it this way as it is cheaper.

Hi. I had my ablation in March of last year. I still have the odd pop bang or whistle as I call it but in the main my life is so much better. I was offered general or sedation. I went with the sedation route. Yes I did feel some burning sensation in my chest but nothing that I couldn’t tolerate. I had the ablation for afib and flutter. I was told that they don’t always do both together but my consultant was confident that it was the way forward for me. I am still on my medication but only half the dose that I was on. I have to say that I would not hesitate to have it done again if the need arose. Wish you all the best.

Thank you that is very encouraging to know, it really is comferting to hear good news stories of people having ablations, hope you continue to improve

I don’t think you are alone in your dilemma. The simple truth is that because there are so many variables, it is impossible be specific about the outcome. For many it is a leap of faith in that you discuss your overall situation, as it applies with you, with an EP and if you have confidence in the EP and what you are told, then most of us take the plunge and pray!

In reality, the outcome depends largely on the condition of your heart, your overall physical condition and the skill of your EP but from what we hear, the vast majority are pleased that they had an ablation and enjoy the benefits but sadly, there are no guarantees. Certainly here in the UK, it is unlikely that an EP will undertake doing an ablation on the NHS unless they are reasonably confident that the patient will benefit.

I have had two since 2016 and have absolutely no regrets so good luck in your deliberations.......

Shcldavies profile image
Shcldavies in reply to FlapJack

Thank you, good advise, following discussion with the Cardiologist I have made up my mind to go for it as I just cannot continue as I am. I have some doubt on the success rate as the Cardiologist has said that I would be cured of my Flutter and a good chance of a cure for the MAT but I now read that there is a 50% chance of it developing into AF post ablation. That said, following BobD and your advise perhaps the best thing is to wait and see taking it a day at a time.

I had my ablation 7 months ago. I have had afib 3 times since but only for a few hours. My main issue now is ectopic beats but they only last a few min to a few hours and I can still do whatever I want during. Couldn’t do that when I was in afib. This board has been a huge help. I have learned more here than I have from any of my Drs. I know several people who have had an ablation and they all have different “success rates” but all much improved.

Thank you, it's always best to get the information from the patient, hope you continue to improve.

Your own summary is pretty accurate! I am not one of the 'cured' but my QOL is vastly improved. You should not be too upset if you have episodes sometimes, I had a few weeks of frequent episodes this year but they suddenly stopped. Thinking back I suspect a hip inflammation was to blame as there is a definite link with inflammation. Best wishes for a good outcome.

Thank you for the reply, it's pleasing to know that you feel the ablation is worth it and gives me the confidence needed to continue down the ablation route. I also believe that inflammation somewhere in the body makes it succeptible to triggers for arythmias but there does not seem to be any studies or information around that looks onto this.

I have had 3 ablations have not worked EP says no more and I live in constant AFib. Good luck to you hope it works.

Thank you for your reply, sorry to hear they did not work, you must have been very disappointed having gone through all that and building your hopes up all to no avail. Hope your on the right medication and managing to have a close to normal life.

I think you have already had a good selection of replies with different experiences of the success or otherwise of having an ablation. As BobD says it is about quality of life, and how you feel now. I lived with paroxysmal AF for around 20 years, managing it reasonably well with medication. However the episodes became longer and more frequent culminating in a fainting drama in my local coffee shop, closely followed by 10 days continuous AF ( on holiday) and a cardioversion on my return. This prompted my cardiologist to say that, for him, I had now crossed over a line where he would recommend the procedure, rather than just offer it as an option. I agreed that it was now seriously impinging on my life and I wanted to see if an ablation would help. After the procedure, I did have a long recovery period, 3 months to feel human again, and another 3 to feel ready to fully resume normal life. Be prepared for this, and for further AF episodes while the heart reboots. Some say they felt worse after the ablation than before, but usually only during the blanking period. This forum is full of people who had side effects after ablation, such as digestive problems, ectopic beats etc, and it is easy to feel depressed if you expect not only a full "cure" but also a quick one. Now, that's the downside. The upside for me is that 3.5 years on I am more or less AF free ( not without some medication ). I have some ectopics, and some very short AF bursts, which I am used to, but the overall effect has been to reset my clock, and hopefully give me a fair few years before I might need a repeat, or similar. I live a normal life ( if no alcohol or smoking passes for normal!) and have no regrets about the ablation. However, I did take a long time to come to that final decision, so its perfectly reasonable for you to ask all these questions, have doubts, check and re check before you decide what's right for you.

Shcldavies profile image
Shcldavies in reply to Bob56

Thank you, your experiance provides a good insite to what I can expect. Regarding alcohol, do you know if it can still trigger your symptoms or have you kept off it just in case. I would love to have a glass of wine occasionally and though I might be able to after the ablation, being teetotal is not as bad as I imagined but I would like to think that I will be able to drink in moderation at some time.

Morzine profile image
Morzine in reply to Shcldavies

I understand your comments in alcohol as it’s s nice to have a glass of wine. Yes being teetotal hasn’t been as bad as I thought it was either.....I started having a non alcohol beer but I now see that as extra calories and have fizzy water! As I’ve lost weight nit having wine which was a big bonus!......but I do have a glass of wine if we go out now after months of teetotal and it doesn’t affect me , in fact cheeky me had two glasses at Xmas......

I won’t risk it with the ablation though....


Shcldavies profile image
Shcldavies in reply to Morzine

That's good to hear, your right I will not risk it until I am over the ablation recovery period but at least I can look forward to a glass of wine again, thank you.

Bob56 profile image
Bob56 in reply to Shcldavies

Re alcohol, I am sure it depends on the individual. I recognised it as a trigger for my AF, and so after my ablation during the recovery period I wanted do nothing which might set things off. When I did feel better, I decided I didn't want to take any chances so stayed off it. My cardiologist used to say that if my drinking was consistent, but moderate, that was much better than drinking a large amount as a one off. For me it was a bit like Russian Roulette, so I thought it best to give up completely.

Shcldavies profile image
Shcldavies in reply to Bob56

Yes very wise, I like the idea of being able to have a glass of wine in the future, not sure how I will be when it comes to it. I may try the odd glass if the cardiologist thinks its OK.

I had an ablation for right atria re-entrant atrial flutter. I do not know what type of flutter you have. I only developed flutter 9 days after an a fib pvi cryo ablation. When I went for the flutter ablation I was told his was simpler and less risky than a left atria afib ablation, and was 95% succesful as compared to a fib ablations 65%.

However I think this means 95 % it stops the problem now, not that it will never ever occur again.

I had mine 26th Feb 2018, no flutter since so good enough for me!

Thank you for your reply, that's good news hope you continue on your recovery. Are you able to eat and drink what you want now or do you still have triggers like caffeine or alcohol that you have to avoid.

Thank you, that's good to hear, do you limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol or are you back to being able to consume anything you want. I would also like to know how long your Flutter ablation lasted, if you found it painful and if you had LA or GA. Sorry for all the questions but it is good to get comparisons from someone who has had a Flutter ablation.

That's good to hear, thanks

I still have decaf coffee and decaff tea at work but , the real tea at home. (2 cups per day). If I am out and I want a coffee I have a real one, but I don't drink a lot of it.

I do have some beers and the very odd glass of wine but very much reduced to the pre AF days.

I never had alcohol cause my a fib, it was not a trigger. However i decided to drink less after the 2.5 years i had A Fib.

I don't want it back and i want the drugs even less.

The flutter only started after he afib was stopped. It is possible it was promoted by the flecainide. ( it is known to promote flutter).

I think the flutter ablation was probably a couple of hours all through, but the actual RF was only minutes . I was only midly sedated. The pain is not much, it is not felt in the heart, it is felt in be right shoulder. I have had worse at the dentist. I never felt any pain in the groin on either of my ablations, as the local numbs it. I never had bleeding problems either even though the ablations were only a month apart and went into the same area in the groin.

Shcldavies profile image
Shcldavies in reply to KMRobbo

Thank you for sharing your experience that was good to know. Flecainide started my Flutter as well, just 4 months after starting it. I believe alcohol does start my MAT/Flutter but not straight away, it tales a few days after drinking, don't know how but its too coincidental for it not to have an effect. Like you I will never go back to my pre arythmia drinking levels as I know now how it makes you feel.

Ive had 3 ablations 1st worked for 6 weeks . 2nd a week. 3rd didnt work.

You have to realise as I've come to find out there are millions of us people and we all have individual problems.

It's not like a car engine when the bores wear out you rebore them

It really is a lottery how bad your heart is or not.

Thank you for your reply, sorry to hear it did not work for you, hope you have found the right medication now.

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