A-Fib.com Mission Statement
Amazon review ad - Hope lies within these pages REVISED 225 pix wide by 96 res


"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

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify.
This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

Radiation Exposure During an Ablation Procedure

By Steve S. Ryan, PhD, January 2012

Exposure to radioactivity during an ablation used to be a legitimate concern. (Doctors and nurses wore lead aprons during an ablation.) Back in 2003, a typical A-Fib ablation resulted in around 50 minutes of fluoroscopy time. 1 One hour of fluoroscopy imaging is associated with a lifetime three-in-ten thousand chance (0.03%) of developing a fatal malignancy, and a risk of passing on a genetic defect of 20 per 1 million births, 2 These risks were considered relatively small compared to the risks of being in A-Fib, antiarrhythmic drug therapy, and/or surgery. 3

Doctors follow directives which limit the amount of radiation you can be exposed to during an ablation. If you get close to exceeding these limits, they will stop the ablation (though this rarely happens).

But many centers today use much less or no fluoroscopy at all. Instead many use 3D non-fluoroscopy (no radiation) imaging techniques such as Intracardiac Echocardiography (ICE), and Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI). You need to check with your A-Fib center as to how much radiation their typical A-Fib ablation patient is exposed to. The radiation dose for a typical A-Fib ablation is estimated to be 18.4 mSv. 2 However, the radiation amount at your A-Fib center will vary depending on what type of imaging equipment they use.

Once you learn what amount of ablation radiation you might be exposed to at your A-Fib center, then you can compare it to the following to determine if you should be concerned:

Average Background Radiation/year 2.4 mSv
Chest X-Ray Radiation 0.02-0.2 mSv
Full-mouth Dental X-Ray 0.03-0.2 mSv
Mammogram 0.7 mSv
Spinal X-Ray Radiation 1.5 mSv
Heart CT Scan Radiation (100-600 Chest X-rays) 12.0 mSv
25.5 min. fluoroscopy during an A-Fib Ablation 15.2 mSv

But bear in mind that, even a one hour-long exposure to fluoroscopy, is a relatively small risk compared to the risks of being in A-Fib, antiarrhythmic meds, and/or surgery.

(The author did a very unscientific survey of the A-Fib medical centers in his area. The average seemed to be 10-20 minutes of fluoroscopy time [for those who used fluoroscopy] for an A-Fib ablation, but more complicated cases could expose patients to 60(+) minutes of fluoroscopy time.)

Before and After:  Protecting Yourself from Radiation Damage

You can take measures before and after your ablation to help protect yourself from radiation damage. Since much of the cancer-causing damage from ionizing radiation is from hydroxyl free radicals, it’s recommended to take antioxidant supplements to neutralize them.

A typical plan is to take the following natural supplements every six hours for at least 24 hours before and after your radiation exposure. These are available without a prescription from health food stores. Check with your doctor before taking any supplements.

  1. Vitamin C 1000 mg
  2. Lipoic Acid 400 mg
  3. N-Acetyl Cysteine 200 mg
  4. Melatonin 3 mg

DO Low Doses of Radioactivity Combat Cancer?

In 2004, the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons published an amazing study of radiation exposure that calls into question the prevailing “linear no-threshold” (LNT) theory of radiation. 4

The story starts 20 years earlier in 1983 when180 apartment building were built in Taiwan. But somehow highly radioactive Cobalt-60 was mixed into the concrete. The 10,000 people who lived in these apartments for 9-20 years received an average of 74 millesieverts (mSv) of radiation a year (a typical catheter ablation using fluoroscopy produces around 15 mSv 5 but much less for non-x-ray imaging systems).

Amazingly, the cancer rates of people living in these highly radioactive buildings were 3.6% of prevailing Taiwanese rates. This is a reduction in cancer rates of 96.4%. This phenomenon is perhaps explained by the theory of hormesis which holds that intermediate levels of radioactivity actually stimulate life and improve health.

(Editor’s Note: The nuclear theory that any level of radiation is cumulatively damaging may not be valid (the Linear No Threshold theory). The levels of radiation received during a typical catheter ablation may not be dangerous, but may even be healthful.)


Last updated: Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Back to the Top

References    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Macle, L et al. “Radiation Exposure During Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation.” Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, March 28, 2003. Volume 26, Issue 1p2, Pages 288-291.
  2. Shapira, AR. “Catheter Ablation of Supraventricular Arrhythmias and Atrial Fibrillation.” American Family Physician, November 15, 2009, p. 1089. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1115/p1089.html
  3. Calkins, H. et al. “Radiation exposure during radiofrequency catheter ablation of accessory atrioventricular connections.” Circulation, Vol. 84, 2376-2382, 1991.
  4. Shapira, A R. Catheter Ablation of Supraventricular Arrhythmias and Atrial Fibrillation. American Family Physician, November 15, 2009, p. 1089. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/1115/p1089.html.
  5. Chen, W. et al. Is Chronic Radiation an Effective Prophylaxis Against Cancer? Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, Spring 2004 Vol 9, Issue 1, p6. Last accessed Sept. 13, 2012 http://www.jpands.org/jpands0901.htm
  6. Efstathopoulos, EP, et al. “Patient and staff radiation dosimetry during cardiac electrophysiology studies and catheter ablation procedures: a comprehensive analysis.” Europace (The European Society of Cardiology), 2006 8(6): 443-448; doi:10.1093/europace/eul041

Search our site

Rate this site

a-fib.com Webutation

Support A-Fib.com

Use OUR link to shop

Amazon button with glow 100 pic 96 res


Every purchase generates a small commission—at no extra cost to you.

Help keep A-Fib.com Ad-free!


A-Fib Alerts-BYA promo Red ALT Signup Button 200 pix wide by 96 res
View Steve S. Ryan, Ph.D.'s profile on LinkedIn  
website security

Home | Help Support A-Fib.com | Print Friendly | Tell Us What You think | Media Room | GuideStar Seal | HON certification | Disclosures | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy