The Risks Linked to Cardiac Ablation Surgery

Dr. Atul Verma, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, discusses the risks that are involved when undergoing cardiac ablation surgery. Southlake Regional Health Centre

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Dr. Atul Verma, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist, discusses the risks that are involved when undergoing cardiac ablation surgery. Southlake Regional Health Centre
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Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Atul Verma, MD, FRCPC, Cardiologist Southlake Regional Health Centre

Duration: 3 minutes, 6 seconds

There are a number of risks for developing atrial fibrillation. High blood pressure is probably the most common, as well as age. The incidence of atrial fibrillation increases significantly in people who are over the age of 65. However, younger people can get atrial fibrillation as well. Especially in very young patients there may be a genetic predisposition to developing atrial fibrillation.

So atrial fibrillation can occur in all kinds of people at all kinds of ages. Other risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation include sleep apnea, excessive alcohol intake, obesity, diabetes and a number of other risks which have yet to even be determined.

A lot of people ask well, what are the risks and success rates associated with ablation? And this is very important for you to know before you agree to go for an ablation. In terms of the risks, fortunately the risks associated with ablation are quite small. There is a small risk, for example, of causing a stroke, but this would be about 0.2 percent or less, and we actually minimize this risk by giving you blood thinners, and also by imaging your heart before the ablation to make sure there are no clots in your heart.

There is also a risk that while we’re burning inside your heart we could burn a small hole in the heart. This is called perforation. This could cause internal bleeding and require urgent surgery to fix. Again, this is highly unlikely and the risk is 0.2 percent or less.

Everyone asks if there are potential fatal complications due to ablation, and yes in theory there are. For example, there are a number of other collateral structures that are near the atrium, like the esophagus, which could theoretically be damaged during ablation, but fortunately this risk is very, very small, occurring one in a thousand patients or less. And we obviously take a number of precautions to prevent any of these complications from happening to you. So as you can see although risks do occur with atrial fibrillation ablation, the total sum of these risks is less than one percent.

If you have any more questions about your atrial fibrillation, or whether you may be a potential candidate for ablation for your atrial fibrillation, feel free to contact your local health professional, your cardiologist, or have them refer you to the heart rhythm program here at Southlake Regional Health Centre, where we’ll be happy to do a consultation.

Presenter: Dr. Atul Verma, Electrophysiologist, Newmarket, ON

Local Practitioners: Electrophysiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.