My first post here. As my profile says, I have had permanent AF for a long time but it is without obvious symptoms. I dont seem to have the kind of problems that many of those with AF suffer from - I have no trouble climbing stairs or with other activities of normal living. I have been running most of my life but I would say that my running ability has declined, particularly in the past 2 years or so, I wonder if this is just the effect of aging, the effect of my AF or a combination of the two.
A catheter ablation had been considered for me but it was thought that this alone was unlikely to stop my kind of AF so just a few days ago, after a very long wait, I was admitted to hospital for a surgical hybrid ablation, with a likelyhood that this would need to be followed by a catheter ablation a few months later. I was lying on a trolly in the anti-room to the operating theater and had been given the first part of the anaesthetic procedure when the surgeon asked me about how my health had been recently and I told him that I am still pretty fit for my age although I am now really struggling to run up hills. He said that in that case he was unsure whether the risks of the procedure he was about to perform justified the possible benefit. We had a conversation during which he said that catheter ablation techniques had improved since the time that surgical ablation was first sugested for me (i.e. over the past three years) and that a catheter ablation, or possibly two catheter ablations separated by a period of a few months, might have close to the same chance of curing my AF with much lower risk of stroke or other complications than would the surgical procedure. The decision was for me to make but he was clearly pointing me towards that route. He then said that since I was already about to go into the operating theater he could, there and then, give me a cardioversion which would probably stop my AF temporarily, perhaps for a few days, so give me an idea of what life would be like without AF. I could then decide whether I wanted to have the catheter ablation or just forget about any treatment other than the regular medication that I have had since my AF was diagnosed. So I had the cardioversion and am now out of hospital and (temporarily) in sinus rythm. I feel great but I was not so bad before, its really hard for me to assess just how much benefit I have from being in sinus rythm. One point is that as soon as I came into sinus rythm my resting pulse dropped from around 70+ bpm to around 60bpm - that's with no change to medication or anything else. Its actually dropped even further since then, probably because I have been put on stronger rate control tablets. As an engineer I cant help thinking that it must be jolly good if a pump can be modified to do the same job as it used to do but running at a lower speed, but I am not sure how that argument would stand up to medical scrutiny.
I am in a bit of a quandry at the moment because before leaving the hospital I met the consultant who specialises in catheter ablations and he is going to phone in a few days to ask if I want to go ahead with that procedure. I dont know how to answer. I suspect that the benefit I would get from curing my AF would be relatively small, hard for me to quantify it, but I suspect that it would be less than most other people with AF would have from their AF being cured. But since the risks of the procedure are low, even a small benefit could be worth having. On the other hand I have the thought that if I have the procedure I might be denying it to someone else whose need is greater. I spoke to my brother, who happens to be a retired surgeon, but not a cardiac specialist, he told me not to think like that because its not a patient's job to decide who should be offered a procedure. Would be grateful for any thoughts.