Pulmonary Vein Isolation | Ablation | MedStar Health

Disrupting electrical signals that cause atrial fibrillation

In most people with atrial fibrillation (AFib), the electrical signals that cause an abnormal heart rhythm originate in one or more of the four pulmonary veins. Pulmonary vein isolation is a type of cardiac ablation that creates scar tissue to disrupt those electrical signals.

Our Electrophysiology Program has the expertise and technology to treat even the most complex arrhythmias. Your doctor may refer you to our experts for pulmonary vein isolation if other treatments, including medication, do not control your AFib.

What to expect during a pulmonary vein isolation

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 groin, neck, or shoulder where the doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube known as a catheter. They will guide the catheter through a blood vessel to the heart. Small electrical impulses will be sent through an electrode to identify the abnormal tissue causing the arrhythmia.

Your doctor will send a mild, painless burst of heat or cold through the catheter to create a scar or destroy the tissue in the pulmonary veins causing your abnormal heart rhythm. The procedure usually takes three to six hours. You may be able to go home the same day and should be able to return to normal activities after a couple days.


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 whereas 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 Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

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 AskMHVI@medstar.net. If you have clinically-specific questions, please contact your physician’s office.