Cryoablation is an alternative therapy that can be used as a treatment for atrial fibrillation (AFib). Oral medications, like blood thinners, are also often used to treat AFib, as is catheter ablation.

There is no hard rule for what is the best treatment for AFib. Ultimately, the choice depends on the state of your condition and your doctor’s recommendations. However, research shows that cryoablation, which is a cold-based therapy, is significantly more effective than medication. Learn more below about this treatment alternative, and you can discuss your options with your doctor.

What is Cryoablation?

Cryoablation treatment is performed by a type of cardiologist known as an electrophysiologist, or EP doctor, to restore a normal heart rhythm. It works by disabling the heart cells that are responsible for creating your irregular heartbeat. Because it is a cold-based therapy, it is minimally invasive.

EP doctors use a balloon catheter to locate and freeze the heart tissue that triggers the irregular heartbeat. This treatment reduces the chances that healthy heart tissue and surrounding structures may be impacted or damaged.

Cryoablation vs. Catheter Ablation

Catheter ablation is a heat-based form of ablation that uses radiofrequency energy to disable the heart cells causing an arrhythmia. This non-surgical procedure creates a map of your heart in real-time. Your doctor will then use that information to block abnormal electrical signals that are creating an abnormal heart rhythm. The latest scientific evidence supports the use of either catheter ablation or cold therapy for AFib treatment.

The main benefit of cooling the tissue with cryoablation is that EP doctors can precisely determine the area causing the irregular beat before permanently disabling the tissue. If the electrophysiologist determines that the treatment has disabled perfectly healthy cells, it’s easier to return normal function. Conversely, when using heat ablation (catheter ablation) EP doctors cannot reverse tissue damage caused by the heat.

The cold temperatures used with cryoablation are also less likely to affect healthy heart tissue or other nearby structures. Research shows cryoablation to be significantly more effective than medication. Best of all, patients usually experience less pain with cryoablation than with another type of AF treatment, known as radiofrequency ablation, that uses radio waves.

How It’s Used

To perform cryoablation, your EP doctor will insert a balloon catheter into a blood vessel to reach the heart. On the end, there is an inflatable balloon that engages the pulmonary vein. Once the balloon reaches the ostium of the pulmonary vein, cold energy destroys the tissue and restores a healthy heart rhythm.

Is it Safe?

The success rate for cryoablation is generally good. Success depends on the presence of complications, other diseases, and the type of AFib that you have. Studies do show, however, that it can be more effective than medication. Complications can occur, but they are rare.

Cryoablation can be a very effective treatment—though you’ll want to discuss the details with your cardiologist or electrophysiologist to make sure. It’s just one option for treatment if you have AFib. When assessing the options, make sure to discuss cryoablation with your doctor. When you’re ready to assess those options, schedule an appointment with the doctors at Heart Rhythm Consultants.

About Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A.

The experienced electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. have been serving West Florida including Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center for over 15 years. Our specialty cardiologists, or EP doctors, help patients manage their abnormal heart rhythm conditions, whether they suffer from arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), or other irregular heartbeats.

Dr. Dilip J. Mathew, Dr. Antonio Moretta, and Dr. Rajesh Malik perform arrhythmia treatments like cardiac ablation, cryoablation, and implanting pacemakers or defibrillators. Dr. Mathew has performed nearly 5,000 complex cardiac ablations. View our office locations in Sarasota and Venice, Florida.