Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation | Heart Arrhythmia | MedStar Health

Minimally invasive procedure to destroy heart tissue causing an arrhythmia

Instead of open-heart surgery, this procedure uses a thin, flexible tube called a catheter to create scarring in the heart muscle in order to eliminate erratic electrical signals and restore a normal heart rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib)

The doctors in our Electrophysiology Program  have expertise in performing many types of atrial fibrillation ablation and are national leaders in the use of cryoablation, which uses cold, rather than heat, to disable damaged tissue. This option can be less painful for patients and is less likely to affect healthy heart tissue.


You may be given a sedative to help you relax, but you will remain awake throughout the procedure. A local anesthetic will be injected to numb the area in the arm or groin where the doctor will insert the catheter. They will guide it through a blood vessel to the heart and send small electrical impulses through an electrode catheter to identify the abnormal tissue causing the arrhythmia. The doctor will then send a mild, painless burst of heat or cold through the catheter to cause tiny scars and correct the irregular heartbeat. The procedure takes two to four hours, and you’ll likely be able to go home the same day.


Arrhythmia (heart rhythm disorders)

An arrhythmia is an abnormal or irregular heartbeat caused by a disturbance in the electrical impulses that coordinate your heart rate. This can cause your heart to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly.

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a type of arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) in which the heart’s two upper chambers do not beat in sync with the two lower chambers.


Chest X-ray

Chest X-rays use a small dose of radiation to create pictures of the structures inside the chest, including the lungs, heart, and chest wall.


An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.

Electrocardiogram (ECG)

An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.

Event monitors

An event monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but where an electrocardiogram takes place over a few minutes, an event monitor measures heart rhythms over a much longer time.

Holter monitors

A Holter monitor is a small device that records the heart’s electrical activity. It’s similar to an electrocardiogram, but whereas an electrocardiogram records over a few minutes, a Holter monitor records over the course of a day or two.

Stress tests

Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms, and chemically induced stress tests.

Our locations

Distance from Change locationEnter your location

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC, 20007

Additional information

Electrophysiology Program

We are leaders in developing and using the latest procedures and technologies to treat heart rhythm disorders, and our cardiac electrophysiology laboratory is one of the most sophisticated in North America.

Ask MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute

Have general questions for our heart and vascular program? Email us at If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.