In some cases it's possible to cure atrial fibrillation (also called A-fib) -- meaning that the heart's rhythm permanently stays out of atrial fibrillation-- by means of either radio-frequency ablation or heart surgery. This is usually only considered after the use of medications to manage A-fib has been unsuccessful.
Radio-frequency catheter ablation is an invasive procedure, meaning that physicians must insert equipment into the body. In this procedure, a special catheter threaded into the heart applies radio-frequency energy to certain parts of the heart. The goal is to scar those parts of the heart that are triggering the irregular atrial rhythms. The procedure is successful 50 to 80 percent of the time; some patients require a second ablation procedure. As in any invasive heart procedure, there's a small risk of serious complications.
Heart surgery for A-fib, often known as the Maze procedure, is a more involved way to attempt a cure but can have higher success rates. Because any heart surgery is inherently risky, surgery for A-fib is usually combined with another necessary heart surgery, such as valve replacement or bypass surgery.