Ablation risk: Had a telephone consultation... - AF Association

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Ablation risk

kalgs profile image

Had a telephone consultation with my Barts Dr and he recommended ablation. He was very upbeat about risks . However, the referral letter arrived this morning and it outlines risks . They seem greater than he suggested.

Serious complications in 3% of cases and life threatening complications. An animated film they asked me to watch says 1in 50 can suffer serious complications. I was fairly ok with ablation prior to this . I think I’m feeling less so now

55 Replies
BobD profile image

Remember this is so you can't say we didn't warn you and no you can't sue us. Common practise. If you read all the supposed risks in anything you would be terrified. As a devout coward would I have had four if there really was a risk.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to BobD

Thanks Bob

Desanthony profile image
Desanthony in reply to kalgs

When I had my hip replacement many years ago the statistics given to me with the referral letter were 1 in 500 people die when having a hip replacement. Now I don't know of anyone who has died having a hip operation but I do know a lot of people who have had a replacement hip. Maybe not 500 but nearly all my contemporaries at work have had at least one if not two hip replacements. I thought about this and realised that a lot of people who have hip replacements may be having them after a fall at a very elderly age with many other serious comorbidities. So it would have been helpful if the statistics went into more detail as to age, general health of those who died. Statistics are great but they don't give the whole picture.

baba profile image
baba in reply to BobD

There are risks

FlapJack profile image
FlapJack in reply to baba

As there are in getting out of bed in the morning, crossing the road and contributing to folk with AF problems on this forum.....it’s all a matter of degree......

A link to the film if possible would be very helpful 🙂

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Buffafly

WWW.explain myprocedure.com/barts

Buffafly profile image
Buffafly in reply to kalgs

Thank you 💜

At least they told you in advance. Mine just rattled them off on the morning of my ablation. I would have signed anything to get it done. Just as well as it happened!

Same here Physalis, it really made me aware of how serious an ablation is.

Ducky2003 profile image
Ducky2003 in reply to Physalis

Same here. Read the pink consent form then Dr spent about 10 seconds waving his finger over it.

Thank you ( I think...!) for posting. I hadn't realised the risk was that great. Due to have number 4 next week but as I had my 22nd DCCV less than 2 weeks ago and tachy at circa 120bpm almost continually I shall go ahead and trust my EP !

It’s always a personal assessment of your risk balanced against possible benefits. Would you be happy to live as you are? Do a thought experiment & think about how you would feel if you cancelled a few years from now.

It’s a very personal decision - as the date for mine got nearer I could think of more & more reasons to cancel - then I thought about how I would feel if I didn’t …… I had 2.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to CDreamer

Thanks . It’s also that many people have had numerous ablations

CDreamer profile image
CDreamer in reply to kalgs

Certainly many need more than one.

Hi I have had three. I know people who have had one and are symptom free. Of course there are risks. Life is risky. But like some others on here I was prepared to have the ablations to have a better quality of life. The Drs and the medical profession have a duty of care to give you all the low down. They would be negligent if they didn't, but on the other hand they dont want to terrify you either. It's ok to be scared, someone is going to work on your heart but that someone is highly trained. You have to decide if the ablation is right for you based on your quality of life now. Is there more you could do to improve your lifestyle? Research and ask specific questions. I don't know if any of this helps but I for one do not regret the decisions I have made regarding my af, but i am still trying to improve my lot, manage my health generally and try and stay stress free. Sit with your feelings for a while. That letter panicked you by the sounds of it. Maybe try some breathing techniques, meditation etc. If you are into that sort of therapy. Whatever you decide make sure it's what YOU want to do . 🌻

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Adalaide2020

Thanks soMuch

Adalaide2020 profile image
Adalaide2020 in reply to kalgs

You are welcome. Keep well 🌻

They have to tell you this so that if anything goes wrong they are covered. I can only tell you my experience and that was a very definite failure as far as I am concerned, made me worse than I was before the ablation, offered a second and refused, the one was enough, I now wear a Pacemaker as a consequence. Good luck what ever you decide to do.

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to opal11uk

Do you think they made a mistake in offering you an ablation when what you really needed was a pacemaker?

Polly159 profile image
Polly159 in reply to Physalis

I was offered a choice between pacemaker and ablation. I went for ablation because pacemaker, of course, is permanent and I felt in terms of 'stages' it was better to go with ablation to pacemaker. (Having said that, I still haven't had the ablations - partly due to COVID and partly due to my weight going over the 'limit' this past year. The amiodarone is doing its work and keeping the episodes more or less away (from 3 or 4 a week to one every few months with some ectopics very occasionally). I get blood checks, obviously and the Amiodarone has affected my thyroid levels (always then carefully adjusted by the docs) and has just shown a drop is kidney function which is also being monitored by my GP. It would be good not to have to keep taking Amiodarone given their side effects longer term.

opal11uk profile image
opal11uk in reply to Physalis

Something happened during the ablation, what I do not know but there was mention of maybe touching some nerve, anyway as a direct consequence of the ablation my heart rate dipped below what it should be so I was at risk of passing out so my cardiologist was concerned that this could happen whilst out or going down stairs etc., and recommended the Pacemaker and I have to say these past 4 years have been wonderful, yes I still take drugs to keep the A/F under control but the Pacemaker does its job in keeping me with a steady heartbeat in fact once the correct drug dosage was established I haven't had A/F as such since, plus I have been able to reduce the drugs by half.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to opal11uk

So pleased to hear your AF is under control

Every time I fly they tell me what to do if the plane crashes etc. It is part of the “don’t blame me I told you “ culture that lawyers impose on just about everyone.

I have had 2 ablations and now after the second 8 months and counting of sinus heart rhythm it is so worth it

Jajarunner profile image
Jajarunner in reply to Sfhmgusa

It's more so you can make INFORMED consent. Not like in the 'olden days' where you could wake up after an anaesthetic and discover they'd done who knows what after all. It's a good thing to be informed and a courtesy, as well as protecting them

While I support the arguments about the inevitability of risk, my warning is other: after 5 hours under anesthetic, I was informed that the procedure had not been successful and would need another (which I refused). But it took me weeks and weeks to recover from the anesthetic etc.

I had the same at my first meeting with my EP. He rattled off the statistics in a very monotone voice and said so are you happy to continue? I had not heard them before and so said can you please repeat the unpleasant negative bits ? Which he did. I thought for a few seconds and said let's go.

What was more important was what he has already told me: that I was a very good candidate for an ablation, and he thought I had a good chance of a succesful ablation, and he would expect I would not need to continue to take drugs if he was correct.

The emphasis was different .

My take was one was required by law or insurance and one was based on his clinical assessment. The first is standardised, the second is tailored.

I haven't had afib since my ablation, and I have not taken any afib drugs since my 3 months post ablation meeting with him.

But as he said I was a good candidate.

Nothing in life is risk free, which included driving to the hospital for the procedure. I was late as there was a crash on the mtorway, which caused gridlock through the area!

Best wishes.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to KMRobbo


My EP at Papworth gave the form to sign and said "I wouldn't read the risks til afterwards if I were you "🤣🤣🤣🤣. It was my second so I just signed. After all, my quality of life was fairly nonexistent so what options did I have?

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Jajarunner

What concerns me is not only the risks but the fact that ablation doesn’t seem to work on the first attempt. So many saying it’s ok but have had numerous ablations?

Sfhmgusa profile image
Sfhmgusa in reply to kalgs

I think that it would be better to tell potential ablation candidates it is often a more than one ablation process. yes of course some have one ablation that does the trick, but a significant minority require more "goes" I think my EP said 70% are right first time 95% with two and virtually everyone with 3 .

The benefit of success is so huge I would say plan for two ablations, and the risks in my opinion are tiny compared to the benefits

Jajarunner profile image
Jajarunner in reply to kalgs

Yes, I never fully recovered from first in may 20 when I had to have second in April 21. I wonder if our view is skewered because those they are successful leave this site?I think the figures Papworth quoted were 60 percent success first time and 80 pc second.

Good luck with whatever you choose to do xx

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to Jajarunner

My EP emphasised that the success rate was only 70%. Fortunately, I was one of that 70%. Probably would have left this forum but my grandson has PoTS or dysautonomia so I'm still here a year later.

Jajarunner profile image
Jajarunner in reply to Physalis

It's great to read a success story. Glad you are still here in the forum.

My mantra is you have an ablation only when your quality of life demands it or you are very young (under 50!) or you have another good 'excuse'.

Oh I can assure you that I researched just that four years ago prior to having my ablation. What you have to factor in is how experienced is your electro physicist? You have every right to ask what his track record is. Thankfully mine is extremely experienced, the procedure went excellent, and all is still good for years later. I did not have any issue during the procedure whatsoever. The studies you are reading includes procedures done by all the doctors which includes newbies up to masters.

Kalgs, perhaps weigh the options of possible complications vs. better quality of life, and it might make it easier to make the decision. They have to tell you the risks so you don't sue if something might go wrong. And even then, they'll know how to handle it.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Snowgirl65


Agree with Bob D. . . CYA- I had my rf ablation at thanksgiving 2020, no side effects other than what you might expect. . a little achy, sore heels from being on the table for 6 hours! All good now.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to 1Chick

Why 6 hours ?

1Chick profile image
1Chick in reply to kalgs

I went from afib to aflutter and they had a time fixing that!!

It is a simple procedure in and out same day no pain nothing. All procedures and medications have Hugh warning to protect the companies or hospitals. But only you can decide but the procedure really helped with my afib and the worst part was the waiting and wondering. It was scary. Would I do it again, yes 100%, the benefit of having a close to normal life is wonderful. Its not a cure but it sure change my life for the better.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Bob002


Bob002 profile image
Bob002 in reply to kalgs

Yes! really is in my case any way, went in morning procedure after prep took less than an hour, laid around in recovery for 2 hours watching tv and eating lunch, went home. The worst part was the anticipation and wait. I understand your fear I was scared. Hope my experience helps in some way.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Bob002

Thanks very much

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to Bob002

Me too. Yes, it was simple and I felt I'd had a nice day there.

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Physalis

It’s not a simple procedure medically ??

Physalis profile image
Physalis in reply to kalgs

Well it's much more simple than doing it surgically.

In its way it is similar to having a stent put into the heart or having a blood clot sucked out of the brain.

However, I do wonder about ablations that take hours. What is it that makes it take so long?

HelloMy hospital is Barts I have been with them for 8 years

I have had 4 ablations with them and another heart operation

Unfortunately nothing works and I am in permanent AF along with other heart problems

I can honestly say that Barts have treated me really well

They must tell you the risks but they are small

After 2 and a half years of constant, persistent AF I had the operation risks read before my first ablation, Feb 2020. 1 in 1000 risk of death, 1 in 200 risk of stroke. Sounded fair enough for a fairly fiddly procedure, poking wires inside my heart from up my leg.

During the cryo procedure I went into asystole twice (difficult to deal with apparently if only sedated) and the procedure was abandoned. Despite that I was very keen to have a second ablation (even under GA with all the extra risks from that as well) Had that in September 2020. Then needed third ablation for flutter. Had that, again signing for all the risks, in January 2021. .......and I accepted all these procedures while the covid risk hung like a sword over the hospital.

All sorted now. NSR and holding. I feel 10 years younger. Started building up my exercise and stamina again. Still able to work (I'm 69) at the aviation job I love. (which in itself is not risk free !)

Was it all worth the potential risks.....even knowing that asystole might have happened again.


I'd rather take those ablation risks for an active drug free life than just exist under a chemical cosh simply to keep my heart rate down.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

I'm with Secondtry on this "My mantra is you have an ablation only when your quality of life demands it or you are very young (under 50!) or you have another good 'excuse'." QOL was the determining factor for me.

I just wanted to stop taking the bisoprolol.

They’ve got to tell you this to cover themselves kalgs, you get in a aircraft and go through the emergency plan with life jacket etc as your about to go on holiday.? In the 3 months leading up to my first ablation I was really worried and frightened regarding the risks they’ve got to inform you about. I am a fully qualified wimp when it comes to pain or discomfort and I would win a Oscar in worrying about my health and life. But I must warn you.! I then went on to have another 2 ablations. I would choose ablation over a tooth removal any day. Hope this helps. 👍

kalgs profile image
kalgs in reply to Jetcat

Thanks so much

Jetcat profile image
Jetcat in reply to kalgs

No problem kalgs.👍

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