What are the possible risks of the procedure?

Your doctor will talk with you about the specific risks and potential benefits of pulmonary vein ablation. The procedure is generally very safe. However, as with any invasive procedure, there are risks that we track very carefully. The risk of a severe or life-threatening complication associated with pulmonary vein ablation is about 1 to 3 percent. These complications include, but are not limited to:

  • Stroke (approximately 0.5 percent risk)
  • Pulmonary vein damage (1 percent risk)
  • Perforation of the heart (1 percent risk)
  • Damage to the esophagus: The risk of damage to the esophagus is difficult to predict because it is very rare, but happens in approximately 1 in 400 patients.
  • The risk of dying from a complication is about 0.1 percent.
  • Bloating and abdominal distension after the procedure. This rare complication may be related to injury to nerves that control the contraction of the stomach muscles. The condition tends to resolve slowly.
  • Other uncommon risks, associated with any X-ray procedure, include an allergic reaction to medication or contrast material and skin injury caused by exposure to X-rays.
  • There may be other possible risks. When you meet with your doctor, please ask questions to make sure you understand why the procedure is recommended and all of the potential risks.

Physicians take special precautions to avoid all complications, but risks cannot be entirely eliminated. The vast experience Cleveland Clinic physicians have helped reduce procedural risks. In addition, we are equipped and prepared to quickly intervene if a complication occurs.

You should weigh the risks of the procedure with the risks of having atrial fibrillation (which includes spontaneous strokes) and the severity of your symptoms.

Also, please discuss any concerns you may have about lying flat on your back for a prolonged period (3 to 6 hours) during the procedure.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2019.

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