Cardiac ablation uses heat or cold energy to create tiny scars in the heart to block irregular electrical signals and restore a typical heartbeat. The procedure is used to correct heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).
Cardiac ablation is most often done using thin, flexible tubes called catheters inserted through the veins or arteries.
Why it's done
Cardiac ablation is a procedure that's used to correct heart rhythm problems.
When the heart beats, the electrical signals that cause the heart to squeeze (contract) must follow a specific pathway through the heart. Any disruption in the signaling pathway can trigger an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).
Depending on the type of heart rhythm problem, cardiac ablation may be one of the first treatments. Other times, it's done when other medicines or treatments don't work
Your health care provider may recommend cardiac ablation if you:
- Have tried medications to treat an arrhythmia without success
- Have had serious side effects from medications to treat arrhythmias
- Have certain types of arrhythmias that respond well to ablation, such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
- Have a high risk of complications from arrhythmias
Your health care provider may order several tests to get more information about your heart condition before your cardiac ablation.
You'll need to stop eating and drinking the night before your procedure. Your care provider will tell you how or if you should continue any medications before a cardiac ablation.
Cardiac ablation is done in the hospital. A specialist will insert an IV into your forearm or hand and give you a medication called a sedative to help you relax. The amount of sedation needed for the procedure depends on your specific arrhythmia and other health conditions. You may be fully awake or lightly sedated, or you may be given general anesthesia (fully asleep).
The health care provider inserts the catheter through a blood vessel into your heart. More than one catheter is often used. The catheters may be inserted through a blood vessel in your groin (most common), shoulder or neck (less common).
Dye (contrast) may be injected through the catheter to help blood vessels show up more clearly on X-ray images.
Sensors on the tip of the catheter send electrical impulses and record your heart's electricity. Your health care provider uses this information to identify the area that is causing your arrhythmia and to decide where to apply the ablation. This part of the procedure is called an electrophysiology (EP) study.
One of the following ablation techniques is used to create small scars in your heart and block the irregular heart rhythms:
- Heat (radiofrequency energy)
- Extreme cold (cryoablation)
You may feel some minor discomfort when the catheter is moved into your heart and when energy is being delivered. Let your physician know what you are feeling if not under general anesthesia.
Afterward, you'll be taken to a recovery area for a few hours where care providers will closely monitor you. Depending on your condition, you may go home the same day or spend the night in the hospital. Plan to have someone else drive you home after your procedure.
Some people feel a little sore after the procedure. The soreness shouldn't last more than a week. Most people can return to their daily activities within a few days after having cardiac ablation. Avoid heavy lifting for about a week.
Your physician will provide all the needed information prior to, during, and after care.
Here is to your good heart health