Radiofrequency Ablation | Atrial Fibrillation| MedStar Health

Using extreme heat to disrupt electrical signals causing an abnormal heart rhythm

Radiofrequency ablation uses heat (similar to microwave heat) to destroy a small area of tissue that is triggering a rapid or irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Your doctors may recommend this therapy if your AFib can’t be controlled by medicine.

The specialists in our Electrophysiology Program have expertise in performing many types of atrial fibrillation ablation and will work with you to find the best treatment for your unique situation.

What to expect during radiofrequency ablation for atrial fibrillation

While radiofrequency ablation can be performed as open-heart surgery, we commonly do it as a minimally invasive cardiac catheterization procedure.

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 through the catheter to cause tiny scars and restore your heart’s regular heart rhythm.

The procedure takes two to four hours, and you’ll likely be able to go home the same day.


play button


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 Union Memorial Hospital

201 E. University Pkwy.
Baltimore, MD 21218

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center

7503 Surratts Rd.
Clinton, MD 20735

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

3800 Reservoir Rd. NW
Washington, DC, 20007

MedStar Washington Hospital Center

110 Irving St. NW
Washington, DC 20010

MedStar Montgomery Medical Center

18101 Prince Philip Dr.
Olney, MD 20832

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center

9000 Franklin Square Dr.
Baltimore, MD 21237

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.