Many cases of arrhythmia can be traced to a single spot transmitting rogue electrical signals in the heart. Catheter ablation uses high-frequency radio waves to defuse those troublemaking spots. The treatment is especially effective for treating atrial fibrillation and tachycardias.

For six months after quadruple bypass surgery, Alfred Pasquale, 67, of San Rafael, Calif., experienced a fluttering of the heart that made him feel shaky and his recovery uncomfortable. "After I had the ablation, I no longer had this irregular heartbeat and I now feel much better."

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Young, healthy patients with atrial fibrillation can expect a success rate of 90% with catheter ablation, says Adrian Hernandez, MD, a cardiologist with the Duke Clinical Research Institute. Older people or those with serious illnesses can expect a success rate of 40% to 70%.