Catheter Ablation and Alternatives

Catheter ablation is a procedure to treat cardiac arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation (AF), to eliminate muscle fibers in the chambers of the heart that trigger and sustain abnormal rhythms. UC San Diego Health electrophysiologists perform a large volume of these procedures, often with minimally invasive techniques and a limited hospital stay.

Radio frequency catheter ablation destroys or disrupts parts of the electrical pathways causing arrhythmias, providing relief for patients who may not have responded well to medications, or who would rather not or cannot take medications.

Dr. Gregory Feld, medical director of UC San Diego Health’s Electrophysiology Program, has performed this procedure in thousands of patients over the past 20 years.

Our facility has been performing catheter ablation to cure atrial fibrillation (AF) since 2000. This condition, estimated to affect more than 2 million people in the U.S., is a common cause of stroke and congestive heart failure. Ablation for AF used to be performed as open heart surgery, but our team has extensive experience in various minimally invasive approaches, including the use of the Hansen Sensei robotic system. The robotic system aids in the precision of the ablation treatment for atrial fibrillation to within one to two millimeters of accuracy. Combined with software that creates a three-dimensional map of the heart, this new technology offers greater stability, reduces exposure to X-rays and shortens the overall procedure time.

Success Rates

The success rate of catheter ablation for AF is between 60 percent and 95 percent, depending on the duration that the patient has been in atrial fibrillation.

  • Catheter ablation for other atrial arrhythmias, including atrial flutter, and supraventricular tachycardia with or without Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, has been performed in several thousand patients over the past 20 years, with a success rate approaching 100 percent.
  • Catheter ablation for ventricular tachycardia can also be performed, both in patients with and without other heart disease, with a success rate ranging from 70 percent to 95 percent.


Catheter ablations are performed in our newly remodeled electrophysiology lab, the most advanced in the region.

This innovative technique, performed by UC San Diego Health specialists, offers a less invasive alternative to conventional open heart surgical ablation for ventricular tachycardia.

During epicardial catheter ablation, a special catheter is passed through the chest wall into the pericardial space around the heart. Using a cooled-tip catheter, radio frequency energy is then used to cauterize the heart tissue causing the abnormal heart rhythm

Sulpizio Cardiovascular Center is the only medical center in the San Diego region to routinely perform this ablation technique. It is performed in our newly remodeled electrophysiology lab.

The Mini-Maze procedure provides an alternative to conventional catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation (AF). It may be used in patients with chronic, persistent AF. This technique is performed in collaboration with cardiothoracic surgeons and is used to interrupt the electrical pathways in the upper chambers of the heart, converting AF to a normal rhythm.

This minimally invasive surgery uses an ablation technique to create a “maze” of lesions in specific areas of the heart. Accessing the heart from between the ribs, the surgeon uses brief bursts of radio frequency energy to cauterize the tissue. These cauterized areas no longer conduct electrical impulses, which interrupts the transmission of the abnormal signals and allows the rest of the heart to resume beating normally.

At UC San Diego Health, research has shown this treatment to be curative in approximately 85 percent of atrial fibrillation patients.

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