"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su Cavanaugh Heart Center, Phoenix, AZ

"Your book [Beat Your A-Fib] is the quintessential most important guide not only for the individual experiencing atrial fibrillation and his family, but also for primary physicians, and cardiologists."

Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel, nurse, blogger and author "Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness"


"Steve Ryan's summaries of the Boston A-Fib Symposium are terrific. Steve has the ability to synthesize and communicate accurately in clear and simple terms the essence of complex subjects. This is an exceptional skill and a great service to patients with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Jeremy Ruskin of Mass. General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

"I love your [A-fib.com] website, Patti and Steve! An excellent resource for anybody seeking credible science on atrial fibrillation plus compelling real-life stories from others living with A-Fib. Congratulations…"

Carolyn Thomas, blogger and heart attack survivor; MyHeartSisters.org

"Steve, your website was so helpful. Thank you! After two ablations I am now A-fib free. You are a great help to a lot of people, keep up the good work."

Terry Traver, former A-Fib patient

"If you want to do some research on AF go to A-Fib.com by Steve Ryan, this site was a big help to me, and helped me be free of AF."

Roy Salmon Patient, A-Fib Free; pacemakerclub.com, Sept. 2013


FAQs A-Fib Treatments: Catheter Ablation Procedures

Catheter ablation illustration at A-Fib.com

Catheter ablation

Atrial Fibrillation patients seeking a cure and relief from their symptoms often have many questions about catheter ablation procedures. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer)

1. “I have a defective Mitral Valve? Is it causing my A-Fib? Should I have my Mitral Valve fixed first before I have a PVA?

2. “With the recent improvements in Pulmonary Vein ablation techniques, should I wait for a better technique? I’m getting by with my Atrial Fibrillation.”

3. “Are there different types of “Pulmonary Vein Ablation”? Are they different from “Pulmonary Vein Isolation?

4. I’’ve heard of Cryo (freezing) catheters for PVA(I) ablations. Are they good or better than the RF (Radio Frequency) catheters for ablations?

5. “How dangerous is a Pulmonary Vein Ablation procedure? What are my risks?

6. “During the ablation procedure A-Fib doctors actually burn within the heart with RF energy. How does this burning and scarring affect how the heart functions? Should athletes, for example, be concerned that their heart won’t function as well after an ablation?

7. “How dangerous is the fluoroscopy radiation during an ablation? I know I need a Pulmonary Vein Ablation (Isolation) procedure to stop my A-Fib—A-Fib destroys my life. I can’t work or exercise, and live in fear of the next attack. Antiarrhythmic meds cause me bad side effects. But I’m worried about being exposed to radiation during the ablation.

8. “I have serious heart problems and chronic heart disease along with Atrial Fibrillation. Would a Pulmonary Vein Ablation help me? Should I get one?

9. “What is an enlarged heart? Does it cause A-Fib?. I was told I can’t have a Pulmonary Vein Ablation (Isolation) procedure because I have an enlarged heart. Why is that?”

10. “I am 82 years old. Am I too old to have a successful Pulmonary Vein Ablation? What doctors or medical centers perform PVAs on patients my age?

11. “Since my PVI, I have been A-Fib free with no symptoms for 32 months. What do you think my chances of staying A-Fib free are?”

12. “How long before you know a Pulmonary Vein Ablation procedure is a success? I just had a PVA(I). I’ve got bruising on my leg, my chest hurts, and I have a fever at night. I still don’t feel quite right. Is this normal?”

13. I want to read exactly what was done during my Pulmonary Vein Ablation. Where can I get the specifics? What records are kept?

14. “What is the typical length of a catheter ablation today versus when you had your catheter ablation in 1998 in Bordeaux, France? What makes it possible?

15. “After my successful Pulmonary Vein Ablation, do I still need to be on blood thinners like Coumadin or aspirin?

16. “I’ve had a successful ablation. For protection against potential stroke risk if my A-Fib re-occurs, which if better—81 mg baby aspirin or 325 mg?

17. Since my ablation, my A-Fib feels worse and is more frequent than before, though I do seem to be improving each week. My doctor said I shouldn’t worry, that this is normal. Is my ablation a failure?

18. “I love to exercise and I’m having a PVA. Everything I read says ‘You can resume normal activity in a few days.’ Can I return to what’s ‘normal’ exercise for me?

19. I have Chronic Atrial Fibrillation (the heart remains in A-Fib all the time). Am I a candidate for a Pulmonary Vein Ablation? Will it cure me? What are my chances of being cured compared to someone with Paroxysmal (occasional) A-Fib?

20. “I’m 80 and have been in Chronic (persistent/permanent) A-Fib for 3 years. I actually feel somewhat better now than when I had occasional (Paroxysmal) A-Fib. Is it worth trying to get an ablation?

21.“Will an ablation take care of both A-Fib and Flutter? Does one cause the other? Which comes first A-Fib or Flutter?

22. Are there other areas besides the pulmonary veins with the potential to turn into A-Fib hot spots? I had a successful catheter ablation and feel great. Could they eventually be turned on and put me back into A-Fib

23. “During an ablation, how much danger is there of developing a clot? What are the odds? How can these clots be prevented?

24. “I was told that I will have to take an anticoagulant for about 2-3 months after my ablation. After all, if fibrillation episodes are reduced or eliminated after an ablation, shouldn’t there be even less need for a prescription anticoagulant rather than more?

25. “I’m six months post CryoBalloon ablation and very pleased. But my resting heart rate remains higher in the low 80s. Why? I’ve been told it’s not a problem. I’m 64 and exercise okay, but I’ve had to drop interval training.”

26. “I’ve heard good things about the French Bordeaux group. Didn’t Prof. Michel Häissaguerre invent catheter ablation for A-Fib? Where can I get more info about them? How much does it cost to go there?

27. “I’m a life-long runner. I recently got intermittent A-Fib. Does ablation (whether RF or Cryo) affect the heart’s blood pumping output potential because of the destruction of cardiac tissue? And if so, how much? One doc said it does.

Last updated: Thursday, September 8, 2016

Return to FAQs

FAQs Newly Diagnosed with A-Fib: Should I seek a cure?”

 FAQs Newly Diagnosed: Cure

Maze heart You are not alone - with outline 175 pix at 96 res6. “Is Atrial Fibrillation curable? Or can you only treat or control it? Should I seek a cure?”

A-Fib is definitely curable. (I was cured of my A-Fib in 1998). If you have A-Fib, no matter how long you’ve had it, you should aim for a complete and permanent cure.

Currently, Catheter Ablation and the Maze/Mini-Maze operations both offer the hope of becoming A-Fib free permanently. For example, Pulmonary Veins Ablation/Isolation (PVA/I) techniques are achieving success rates of 70%-85% in making Paroxysmal patients A-Fib free. A second procedure, when required, raises the success rate to 90% or higher.

A successful PVI also reduces the A-Fib-related threat of death by 50%, eliminates the need for blood thinners and reduces the chances of developing dementia.

Being ‘cured’ of A-Fib is possible for more and more patients everyday. Discuss these treatment options with your cardiologist or electrophysiologist.

If your doctor is satisfied with just keeping your A-Fib “under control,” I recommend you get a second opinion.

Refer to our Finding the Right Doctor page and related readings. We step you through all you need to know to find the right doctor for you and your treatment goals.

Last updated: Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Go back to FAQ for the Newly Diagnosed A-Fib Patient

FAQs from Newly Diagnosed Patient

You are not alone. A-Fib.comFrequently Asked Questions by Newly Diagnosed Patients

Newly diagnosed Atrial Fibrillation patients have many questions about living with A-Fib. These are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer)

1.  My doctor says I had an attack of A-Fib. How much trouble am I in?

2.  Did I cause my Atrial Fibrillation? Am I responsible for getting A-Fib?

3.  “Could my A-Fib go away on its own? I don’t want to take any medication. Can I just wait and see?”

4.  “Is Atrial Fibrillation a prelude to a heart attack?

5.  “Can I die from my Atrial Fibrillation? Is it life threatening?”

6.  “Is Atrial Fibrillation curable? Or can you only treat or control it? Should I seek a cure?

7.  “Is there a diet I could follow which would cure my A-Fib?

8.  “Should I cool my sex life? Can I exercise if I have Atrial Fibrillation? Should I exercise?

9.  “I have a lot of stress at work. Does this stress cause or trigger my A-Fib?”

10. “Can I drive my car if I have Atrial Fibrillation?

11. “Is drinking coffee (tea, colas, other products with caffeine) going to make my A-Fib worse or trigger an A-Fib attack?

12. “Is there anything I can do to get out of an A-Fib episode? How do others deal with their episodes?

13. “Should I carry a wallet card or a medical ID? I have A-Fib and take Coumadin. In case of an A-Fib emergency, what information should I include?

14. “I live in fear of my A-Fib. I never know when I’m going to get an A-Fib attack or how long it will last. How do I deal with the anxiety? 

15. “Should I see a cardiologist for my A-Fib and not just my primary care doctor? He wants to prescribe medication. Should I also see a specialist?”

Last updated: Monday, July 13, 2015

Return to Frequently Asked Questions

About Recurrence of A-Fib After Successful Catheter Ablation

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, June 2014

Ed Grossman recently wrote and asked me about recurrence of A-Fib after a successful catheter ablation:

Recurrence of A-Fib After Catheter Ablation“I’ve read studies from the French Bordeaux group that talk about A-Fib recurring after a catheter ablation, that A-Fib tends to come back. Can A-Fib be cured permanently by a catheter ablation? After a successful catheter ablation, what are my chances of A-Fib recurring?”

The French Bordeaux group pioneered the original Pulmonary Vein Isolation procedure.

The studies you refer to were done in 2001-2002 with 100 patients. There’s been a great deal of improvement in the procedure since then, such as the use of irrigated tip catheters and the increased use of circumferential pulmonary vein isolation (PVI). (For example, when I had my procedure done in Bordeaux in 1998, they did what was then called a focal ablation in only one of my pulmonary vein openings. I’ve been A-Fib free “cured” for 16 years. Today though, they routinely isolate all four pulmonary veins.)

Don’t let the threat of recurrence put you off of having a catheter ablation. Recurrence is often influenced by several factors unrelated to the actual catheter ablation procedure, some of which you can control.

Certain Health Conditions Cause Recurrence of A-Fib

There are health conditions which tend to cause A-Fib to recur including hypertension, obesity, sleep apnea, diabetes, smoking and binge drinking. Controlling these conditions will reduce the risk of recurrence.

For example, let’s say patient “Joe” has A-Fib and sleep apnea, then has a successful A-Fib ablation and is A-Fib free. Because of his sleep apnea, Joe’s A-Fib is more likely to recur than someone without sleep apnea. So much so, that Electrophysiologists (EPs) today are insisting that A-Fib patients with sleep apnea be treated and use devices like a CPAP breathing machine before they can get a catheter ablation. In one study sleep apnea was an independent predictor for catheter ablation failure after a single procedure.

Also, those with long-standing persistent A-Fib, or those with vascular heart disease, or cardiomyopathy are more likely to have a recurrence.

Less recurrence for those with Lone A-Fib

Around 50% of A-Fib patients have no apparent pre-existing medical condition—called “lone A-Fib” because there’s no other contributing health condition. After a successful catheter ablation, those with lone a-fib are less likely to have a recurrence. But some lone A-Fib patients do have recurrences. (Some studies estimate a 7% chance of recurrence out to five years, though most recurrences occur in the first six to 12 months.)

So why the recurrence for lone a-fib patients? Heart tissue is very tough and tends to heal itself after an ablation. Or, there may be gaps in the ablation lines and the spots may require a touch-up ablation (usually with a much shorter procedure time and easier to perform than the first ablation).

The joy of Years of living in ‘Normal Sinus Rhythm’

Let’s discuss a worst-case scenario. You have a catheter ablation that makes you A-Fib free. Then three years later you develop A-Fib again. But the bottom line is you’ve been “cured” for three years. (The dictionary defines “cure” as “restoration of health; recovery from disease”.)

Most people with symptomatic A-Fib are overjoyed to have a normal heart beat and a normal life for three years, to be freed from both A-Fib symptoms and from the anxiety, fear and depression that often accompany A-Fib.

(See the personal experience stories by patients who had recurrence and a successful second ablation: Jay Teresi, “In A-Fib at Age 25 and Robert Dell’s A-Fib Experience: “Daddy is always tired”.)

Only people with A-Fib appreciate how wonderful it is to be in ‘Normal Sinus Rhythm’ (NSR). For most of us, catheter ablation provides “acceptable” long-term relief from A-Fib. And it’s comforting to know, you can go back for another ablation, if you need it.

Catheter Ablation is the Best Hope for a “Cure”

Today, catheter ablation is the best A-Fib treatment offering hope for a “cure”—for making you A-Fib free. Current medications, for the most part, don’t work or have bad side effects or lose their effectiveness over time. Electrocardioversions usually don’t last. Surgical approaches work, but are generally more invasive, traumatic, and risky, and not recommended as first-line therapy for A-Fib.

Yes, A-Fib can return after a catheter ablation; the benefit may not be permanent. But, as a point of reference, consider heart by-pass operations or heart stents—are they always permanent? (Often they aren’t.)  Do patients need additional surgeries? (Often they do.) With the option to return for an additional or “touch-up” procedure, catheter ablation is still today’s best hope for a life free from the burden of Atrial Fibrillation.

References for this Article

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Return to Index of Articles: Catheter Ablation

Last updated: Monday, August 17, 2015

WomenHeart.org Asserts A-Fib Not Curable! (They are so Wrong!)

by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

We recently visited the web site ‘WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease’ (http://womenheart.site-ym.com) and took their quiz “Are you an Afib Expert?”

WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease - Are you an Afib Expert?

WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease – Are you an Afib Expert?

To the question “Is A-Fib curable?”, The quiz answer states:

“Unfortunately, Afib is not curable, however medication and/or surgical procedures can significantly improve your quality of life.” (see the quiz answers at the bottom of this page.)

As someone who’s been cured for 15 years, I was astounded by this comment. It’s so wrong!

National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease logo

Website of the National Coalition of Women with Heart Disease

And it’s a real disservice to people with A-Fib who need to know they have other options than living the rest of their lives on A-Fib meds. People are cured every day by catheter ablation (and surgery). There are thousands of Electrophysiologists (EPs) doing catheter ablations in both the US and throughout the world. Their success rates are quite good with what’s considered a low risk procedure (it’s not like heart bypass surgery).

What Being “Cured” Means

As someone who’s been cured for 15 years, I was astounded by this comment. It’s so wrong!

One could possibly argue about the semantics of the word “cure” (EPs prefer the term “A-Fib free”). The American Heritage College dictionary definition of “cure” is “Restoration of health; recovery from disease.” To someone who has a successful catheter ablation and no longer has A-Fib, they certainly feel cured. For someone suffering from A-Fib, there’s nothing like the feeling of being A-Fib free. (I’m speaking from experience here.) It’s wonderful to have a heart that beats normally again!!!—to be able to exercise, to live life fully, to no longer have to take those awful A-Fib meds with their bad side effects!

Our Email Response Sent to WomenHeart.org

Here’s the email we sent on 10/20/2013  to their ‘contact’ form at:  http://womenheart.site-ym.com/

“SERIOUS ERROR on your website about Atrial Fibrillation (subject line)

I took your quiz  “Are you an expert in Atrial Fibrillation”. The answer about medication and surgery to cure A-Fib is completely WRONG.

“Unfortunately, Afib is not curable, however medication and/or surgical procedures can significantly improve your quality of life.”

A-Fib is curable through Cox-Maze surgery, Mini-maze surgery and several forms of catheter ablations (pulmonary veins ablation, RF ablation, CryoBalloon ablation to name a few).

You need to CORRECT this misinformation.

Two major sources of correct, up-to-date information are:

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs

Cleveland Clinic : http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/disorders/electric/surgtx.asp

Our non-profit education website, Atrial Fibrillation: Resources for Patients, A-Fib.com, is published by Steve S. Ryan, PhD, who was cured of his A-Fib in 1998 by RF catheter ablation of the pulmonary veins.

His book is available on Amazon.com: Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure, by Steve S. Ryan, PhD.

You are doing your readers a serious disservice by posting incorrect and out-of-date information.

Call us if you want the names of the leading cardiologists who cure A-Fib everyday through minimally invasive procedures and surgeries.

Patti Ryan
A-Fib, Inc.


WomenHeart.org did not respond to our email. They did not correct the misinformation on their website. In the month following our email, WomenHeart.org removed this quiz from their web site.

Why Say ‘A-Fib Can’t Be Cured’?

Why in the world would WomenHeart.org assert that A-Fib can’t be cured? We can only speculate that it’s because many of WomenHeart.org sponsors are drug companies who profit by keeping people in A-Fib and buying their drugs. Drug companies’ profit bottom line suffers when people are cured of their A-Fib. From their perspective, it’s better if people don’t know they can be cured of A-Fib.

Watch our video: A-Fib Patients: Buyer Beware of Faulty Information with Steve S. Ryan, PhD

Shame, shame on you.

Steve Ryan
Publisher, A-Fib.com, and A-Fib-Free since 1998

References for this article

Are you an afib expert? Quiz Answers

Are you an afib expert? Quiz Answers

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Return to Dealing with A-Fib

Last updated: Sunday, February 15, 2015

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