Atrial Flutter Ablation


What Are The Risks of an Atrial Flutter Ablation Procedure?

The Radiofrequency ablation procedure is a very low-risk procedure and should a complication arise, it will be dealt with immediately. The worldwide complication rate for Electrophysiology studies and radiofrequency ablation procedures is less than 0.5%. Although most people undergoing radiofrequency ablation procedures do not experience any complications, you should be aware of the following risks:

  • Local bleeding, blood clot or haematoma (blood collection) - this may occur at the catheter insertion site.
  • Rapid abnormal heart rhythm - this may actually cause you to pass out for a very short period of time and in some cases a small electric shock may be required to restore your normal rhythm. A proportion of patients with atrial flutter go on to develop another related arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation has similar consequences to atrial flutter but its treatment can be more difficult. You will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure you do not develop this condition.
  • Perforation or damage - very slight chance that this may occur to either a heart chamber or to the wall of one of the arteries.
  • Heart block - depending on the location and type of your atrial flutter, there is a very small chance of damage occurring to the heart's normal electrical system. This may be temporary, but permanent damage would result in a pacemaker being inserted at the time of the procedure.
  • Major complications - stroke, heart attack, and death are very rare.


What Special Precautions Will Be Taken?

As discussed above, atrial flutter carries a very small risk of stroke due to the risk of blood clot formation in the left atrium. This is one of the reasons to cure the rhythm disturbance. This risk increases slightly at the time that the heart reverts from the atrial flutter to the normal rhythm. This increased risk is present whether the rhythm is reverted with medication, with a DC shock on the chest or with a radiofrequency ablation procedure. In order to prevent this occurring the following precautions will be taken:

  • In the week prior to the procedure or at the time of the procedure you will have a special ultrasound study of your heart called a transoesphageal echo. This involves passing a small probe into the oesophagus (the swallowing tube) to give clear pictures of the heart and ensures that no blood clots are present.
  • During the procedure you will be given blood-thinning medication.

After the procedure you will be started back on blood thinning medication (warfarin) for 6 weeks. The warfarin may take approximately 1 week to reach the required levels and during this time you will also be receiving daily injections of clexane. You will be shown how to administer these.

Special Note

If there is any chance you may be pregnant, please notify the Cardiovascular Centre and the hospital before your procedure. The procedure is associated with additional risks if you are pregnant.

  • Professor Sanders says...

    Atrial fibrillation is a consequence of several reversible risk factors - high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnoea, and excessive alcohol. Your management of atrial fibrillation must include strict control of these risk factors.