Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation is the most common type of disorder of your heart rate or rhythm. It occurs when disorganised electrical signals cause the atria (heart's two upper chambers) to contract very rapidly and irregularly. As a result, the blood is not pumped completely into the ventricles (heart's two lower chambers) and collects in the atria. The atria and ventricles therefore do not contract in a coordinated manner resulting in either too much or not enough blood being sent from the heart to the body.

People with atrial fibrillation may not experience any symptoms. In some people, it may cause chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, heart failure, and increased risk of stroke.


Treatment of atrial fibrillation involves medications and certain medical procedures to restore a normal heart rhythm. Blood thinners are usually prescribed to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Cardioversion, a procedure where an electrical shock is delivered to your heart to restore its normal rhythm, may also be performed. If medications or cardioversion does not work to control atrial fibrillation, ablation therapy is recommended.

Ablation therapy aims to create scar tissue near the site of the origin of the abnormal electrical impulses to terminate them and prevent them from spreading. Ablation can be performed either surgically or non-surgically depending on the type of arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and the presence of other cardiac problems.

Nonsurgical ablation: In this procedure, a special catheter is inserted through veins in the groin and guided into the specific area of the heart to ablate the abnormal electrical signals. Either radiofrequency or cryothermy may be used for ablation.

Surgical ablation: This is frequently combined with other heart surgeries such as mitral valve repair and coronary heart surgery. It involves using special catheters to create scars on the left and right atria that prevent passage of the disorganized electrical signals and aims to restore normal heart rhythm. Usually this is achieved using a cryo-ablation catheter that freezes specific lines on the heart during the surgical procedure.

  • The Children's Hospital at Westmead
  • Heart Centre for Children- The Children's Hospital at Westmead
  • Sydney Children's Hospital Randwick
  • Westmead Hospital
  • Westmead Private Hospital
  • Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
  • International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation
  • Sydney Adventist Hospital
  • Healing Little Hearts