Skip to Content
In a normal heart, electrical impulses pace the rhythm at
which the heart contracts and relaxes. The sinoatrial (SA) node triggers the
electrical impulse, causing the upper chambers (atria) to contract. The signal
travels through the atrioventricular (AV) node to the atrioventricular bundle,
which divides into the Purkinje fibers that carry the signal and cause the
lower chambers (ventricles) to contract. The electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG)
shows this normal electrical activity.
In atrial fibrillation, erratic electrical impulses in the
upper chambers of the heart (atria) cause those chambers to fibrillate, or
quiver. This results in an irregular and frequently rapid heart rate. The
irregular, sawtooth pattern in the electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) shows these
For this nonsurgical procedure, catheters are inserted into a vein, typically
in the groin or neck, and threaded through the vein into the
An electrode at the tip of the catheter sends out
radiofrequency energy, creating heat that destroys (ablates) the
atrioventricular (AV) node or other heart tissue that is responsible for the
If the AV node is ablated, a permanent pacemaker is implanted
that paces the ventricle. The pulse generator and battery part of the pacemaker
are implanted under the skin of the chest. The electrocardiograms (EKG, ECG) show the heart's electrical activity during atrial fibrillation and when
a heart has a pacemaker.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerRakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, ElectrophysiologySpecialist Medical ReviewerJohn M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Current as ofFebruary 20, 2015
Current as of:
February 20, 2015
Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology & John M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2015 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
© Copyright 2016 Rush-Copley Medical Center • 2000 Ogden Avenue; Aurora, IL 60504
Main: 630-978-6200 • Physician Referral & Information: 630-978-6700 or 866-4COPLEY (866-426-7539)