Radiofrequency ablation is a technique used in conjunction with an electrophysiology study for the treatment of a variety of heart rhythm disorders. There are patients with abnormal electrical pathways which result in recurrent arrhythmias associated with symptoms of palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness and occasionally loss of consciousness. These abnormal pathways can be localized and a catheter positioned with its tip on the abnormal area. The electrode tip is heated using radiofrequency energy which causes a small area of irreversible tissue injury and thereby eliminates the aberrant pathway. Patients are then cured of their arrhythmia.
Success rates for this procedure depend on the type of arrhythmia treated, but can be greater than 95%. Complications are infrequent and again are dependent upon the pathway location, but usually is considered less than 1 - 2%. Radiofrequency ablation is an alternative to drug therapy in many patients with certain heart rhythm disorders.