Radio-Frequency Energy (RF)

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Evolution of Radio-Frequency Energy (RF)

The very first technology that was used for this was radio-frequency energy (RF) which is similar to the energy that your microwave oven uses to heat up food. This requires maneuvering a wire in the heart and making dots around the pulmonary veins. As the opening of the pulmonary veins is a circular shape, a circle is made with the dots. When the dots are all connected together, a circle is made around the vein blocking electricity from entering the heart. A newer technology (cryoballoon) uses a balloon that is inflated in the heart, placed at the opening of the pulmonary vein, and then cooled (usually around -45C or -49F) to create a scar and block abnormal electrical signals. This makes a perfect circle with one treatment instead of having to connect many dots to draw a circle. In a recent trial (3) published in 2021, this was successful in 75% of patients while medications and anti-arrhythmic therapy was only 45% effective. There have been trials comparing cryoballoon to traditional RF ablation and the success rate are similar (4). However, the advantage of the cryoballoon is shorter procedure time and that “cold energy” creates less char than RF energy.


  1. Wazni OM, Dandamudi G, Sood N, Hoyt R, Tyler J, Durrani S, Niebauer M, Makati K, Halperin B, Gauri A, Morales G, Shao M, Cerkvenik J, Kaplon RE, Nissen SE; STOP AF First Trial Investigators. Cryoballoon Ablation as Initial Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2021 Jan 28;384(4):316-324. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2029554. Epub 2020 Nov 16. PMID: 33197158.
  2. Kuck KH, Brugada J, Fürnkranz A, Metzner A, Ouyang F, Chun KR, Elvan A, Arentz T, Bestehorn K, Pocock SJ, Albenque JP, Tondo C; FIRE AND ICE Investigators. Cryoballoon or Radiofrequency Ablation for Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2016 Jun 9;374(23):2235-45. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1602014. Epub 2016 Apr 4. PMID: 27042964.
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