How safe is ablation?: I need an ablation... - AF Association

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How safe is ablation?


I need an ablation, but I am nervous, doctor uses general anesthesia and I have sleep apnea, i can be under more the 4 hours i have never been totally out before Does snome one know the safety and the risks of ablation thank you

12 Replies

Good morning mate,

thats a question to be worked over best with your EP.

I had my ablation 2 years ago, under GA and I also do have sleep apnea. Mine lasted 3.5 hours and they did both, left atrium for Afib and right atrium for flutter.

All went fine and its the best I did in years. Life changed just 180 degree.

I would always go again.



Are you concerned about the ablation, or more about having a general anaesthetic?


Nothing is 100% safe obviously but I would not have had three ablations if there was any serious risk. All the things they tell you about are so you can't sue them.

I do not understand why you think sleep apnoea may be a problem. With GA there is no way you can stop breathing and teh anaesthetist watches you like a hawk.

I had both my ablations with sedation and was not offered a general anaesthetic and I was perfectly comfortable and was kept pain free and drifted in and out of consciousness. Both ablations were +6-7 hours but I was awake and alert after a few minutes and eating a dinner 15 minutes after arriving back on the ward.

As to ‘safe’ - best discussed with your EP - ask about the cath lab and ask how many ablations they perform per year and their average success rate. Also read some of the posts from people who are post ablation? I don’t think anyone can say that anything is 100% safe - there is always risks with drugs and invasive procedures but they seem to be very small.

I don’t think sleep apnea will be an issue as if there is an anaesthetist present, their sole job will be to monitor your sedation and breathing and bloods - bet you don’t have that every time you go to bed!

Modern general anaesthesia is quite safe and thousands of people undergo procedures using it on a daily basis with no reaction at all, many with more complex issues than sleep apnoea.

You'll be intubated, and your airway will be maintained (kept open) during so this will not be an issue, though you won't know anything about it as once your Co2 levels drop to show little or no muscle activity it'll all happen then as you'll be "under"

You'll be given something to bring you round when everything is sorted and the only thing you'll know about is a sore throat and feeling hungover without having spent the money on a binge drinking session!

I have AF and asthma and underwent a 6hr+ spinal operation which is much more invasive with huge loss of blood and I'm still here and pretty coherent I think? You can read or be told statistics until the cows come home but the truth is nothing is without risk. I hope you aren't planning any car journeys at all?

Nobody likes the idea of a GA or your heart being messed with but you need to remind yourself your nervousness is because you have thought about the risk. People have horrible accidents with beach umbrellas apparently but we all trot off quite happily to the beach without doing a risk assessment first 😀

You can wait until you are so desperate for an ablation that you cease to care about any risk but by then you may not have a good outcome first time.

I do hope that you'll be a member writing here in a few months to say it is all over and you don't know what you were worried about, best wishes.

They generally insert a breathing tube if they put you all the way under, right? If that is the case your sleep apnea will have no impact. That is what they did with me.

I had a ga ablation last September and was under for 5 hours as he found more to do than expected but it worked and it is still working so for me it has been a no brainer. However I don’t have sleep apnea so can’t comment on that but presumably your consultant is aware. Good luck


GA is the best. You go in, go to sleep, wake up and it’s done.

With sleep apnea, I read that it is best to work with GA because they can control the breathing better.

Good Luck with the ablation!

I was also petrified but honestly it was ok, I wish I had not spent so much time worrying and just got on with it sooner than I did.

Good luck in whatever you decide x

I've had two. First was for afib on one side, then a flutter in the other and then back to the left again to chase down another flutter. Can't imagine 8 hour surgery without GA.

One tip for all. If you're going to be laying on what is a basically a metal bed for 5 (or 8) hours, you may want to mention any serious back issues. I neglected to inform my EP of my three herniated discs and paid the price.

I had an ablation 2 years ago under GA for fib and flutter. 4.5 hours under. I also have sleep apnea, lots of people do!

There was no issue with the anaesthetist , they monitor everything when you are under.

I came round in the ward, very groggy but my cpap machine was on when I awoke.

As for how safe it is, there are risks, but they are fairly small and if the risks were higher than the rewards then you wouldn't be having an ablation

It was the best decision made. 2 years AF free and counting

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