An arrhythmia is a condition where the heart beat has become irregular and beats either too fast or too slow. One of the most common types of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart doesn’t pump the blood into the ventricles, or lower chambers of the heart. As a result, too much blood remains in the upper chambers of the heart, or atria.
The condition becomes more common with age and increases the risk of stroke and may lead to heart failure. Other symptoms include conditions such as dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, or PAF, is an early form of atrial fibrillation. PAF occurs when a person suffers two or more episodes of atrial fibrillation in a week that isn’t related to a reversible cause, such as pulmonary disease, surgery, or hyperthyroidism.
Most instances of PAF eventually stop on their own. However, PAF is generally unresponsive to medication, which leaves cardiac patients with atrial fibrillation few treatment options.
In January, 2012, the FDA approved the use of the THERMOCOOL®SF Catheter for the treatment of PAF. The THERMOCOOL®SF Catheter uses heat energy, or radio waves, to treat the source of the arrhythmia and permanently block the electrical impulses in the heart that are causing the arrhythmia to occur.
The procedure is conducted in an outpatient setting and lasts between two and four hours. During the procedure, an electrophysiologist creates a 3-D map of the heart using the visualization capability of the CARTO®3 3D Mapping & Ablation System.
The purpose of the 3-D map is to identify the source of the irregular electrical impulses in the heart. Once the source is identified, the electrophysiologist guides the catheter to the source of abnormal activity.
Radio waves, which generate heat, are then delivered directly to the affected area. As a result, the heart tissue in the targeted area is altered. Because the source of the problem is treated, patients can expect a reduction in PAF episodes, severity of symptoms, and in some cases, a return to a normal heart rhythm is permanent.
The THERMOCOOL®SF Catheter differs from other catheter systems in that it has a cooling solution throughout the entire catheter. This keeps the tip of the catheter cool during the procedure.
This improves patient safety and reduces the risk that blood clots may form. The THERMOCOOL®SF Catheter has been in use in Europe since 2010.
University of California, San Diego Health Sciences (2012, February 17). Heat energy used to fix odd heart beat. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 18, 2012, from
Alan Cheng, M.D., Phillip J. Podrid, M.D. Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. UpToDate, Inc. 17 Jan 2012.
January 12, 2012: Biosense Webster Announces FDA Approval of the THERMOCOOL SF Catheter in the United States. Media Sphere Medical, LLC. Innovations in Cardiac Rhythm Management. 12 Jan 2012. http://www.innovationsincrm.com/latest-news/210-biosense-webster-announces-fda-approval-of-the-thermocool-sf-catheter
What is Atrial Fibrillation? National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. 01 July 2011. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af
Reviewed February 21, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith