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 FAQs A-Fib Ablations: Radiation Risks 

Catheter Ablation

Catheter Ablation

“How dangerous is the fluoroscopy radiation during an ablation? I know I need a Pulmonary Vein Ablation (Isolation) procedure to stop my A-Fib. But I’m worried about being exposed to radiation during the ablation.”

Back in 2003, exposure to radioactivity during an ablation was a legitimate concern; a typical A-Fib ablation resulted in around 50 minutes of fluoroscopy time.

Today, many centers use much less or no fluoroscopy at all. Instead many use 3D non-fluoroscopy (no radiation) imaging techniques such as Intracardiac Echocardiography (ICE) and/or Magnetic Resonant Imaging (MRI). Check with your A-Fib center as to how much radiation their typical A-Fib ablation patient is exposed to, then compare it to the following points of reference to determine if you should be concerned.

Average Background Radiation/year2.4 mSv
Chest X-Ray Radiation0.02-0.2 mSv
Full-mouth Dental X-Ray0.03-0.2 mSv
Mammogram0.7 mSv
Spinal X-Ray Radiation1.5 mSv
Heart CT Scan Radiation (100-600 Chest X-rays)12.0 mSv
25.5 min. fluoroscopy during an A-Fib Ablation15.2 mSv

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

Protecting Yourself from Radiation Damage

You can take safeguards 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. But 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

Dr. Leo Galland, MD of the Foundation for Integrated Medicine suggests two additional supplements to reduce the risks of radiation exposure:

• Egb 761 (Tebonin), a Ginkgo extract to be taken a week after being exposed to imaging radiation, 120 mg daily. “Reduced the damaging effects of radiation on chromosomes—and the benefits persisted for several months after workers stopped taking it.”

• The flavonoid Hesperidin, a type of antioxidant, 250 mg about one hour before testing. “In human tests…it reduced radiation-induced damage by about one third.”

Editor’s comment: 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. See
Thanks to Stephanie Fagan for this question.
Resources for this article
¤  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.

¤  Efstathopoulos 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

¤ Galland, Leo. Guard Against Radiation Danger. Bottom Line/Health, May 2015, p. 9.

Return to FAQ Catheter Ablations
Last updated: Monday, June 18, 2018

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