Key Points about Cardiac Ablation

  • Cardiac ablation can treat heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, by altering the heart tissue responsible for the abnormal beating.
  • This procedure is generally performed with a catheter that is inserted through the groin, and travels to the heart to deliver extreme heat or cold to damage a section of heart tissue.
  • Some cardiac ablations may be performed through open-heart surgery.
  • You may be a candidate for this procedure if your irregular heartbeat has not responded to medication, if your medications caused severe side-effects, or if you are at risk of developing complications from your irregular heartbeat.

Overview

Cardiac ablation is a treatment to fix heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. The procedure usually requires general anesthesia and can last up to six hours.

In a cardiac ablation, doctors will usually insert a long narrow tube, called a catheter, into the groin, from where they will guide the tube to the heart. The tube then applies extreme cold or heat to areas of the heart, to alter the heart tissue that may be contributing to irregular beating.

Cardiac ablation may be an option if your arrhythmia has not responded to other treatment, or if your specific type of arrhythmia is known to respond well to this procedure.

About cardiac ablation

Cardiac ablation is a treatment for heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. In this procedure, doctors will usually insert a long narrow tube, or catheter, into the groin. They will then guide the tube to the heart, where it will apply extreme cold or heat to areas of the heart, to alter the heart tissue that may be contributing to irregular beating.

The use of a catheter is generally preferable in cardiac ablation, as this method can shorten recovery times. In some cases, however, cardiac ablation may be performed during open-heart surgery.

Candidates for cardiac ablation

You may be a candidate for cardiac ablation if your heart arrhythmia has not responded to medications, or if:

  • Your heart arrhythmia medications caused severe side-effects
  • You are at a high risk of experiencing complications from your arrhythmias, and need swift treatment
  • You have a form of arrhythmia for which this procedure is known to be highly effective

Expectations for cardiac ablation

With cardiac ablation, you can expect to:

  • Receive anesthesia
  • Have a small tube inserted into the groin, or into a vein on another part of the body
  • Experience minor discomfort during the procedure, in some cases

The procedure can take up to six hours.

Benefits of cardiac ablation

Cardiac ablation has the potential to correct abnormal heartbeats and decrease the risk of complications from the condition. The less invasive form of cardiac ablation that uses catheters instead of open-heart surgery may decrease the risk of complications and shorten recovery time.

Risks of cardiac ablation

As with all heart procedures, cardiac ablation has accompanying risks. Potential risks of this procedure may include:

  • Infection or bleeding at the catheter insertion site
  • Heart valve or blood vessel damage
  • Punctured heart
  • Kidney damage
  • Electrical system damage in the heart
  • Blood clotting
  • Pulmonary vein stenosis, or narrowed veins between the heart and lungs
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

Recovery from cardiac ablation

After a cardiac ablation, you will recover in a hospital room for up to six hours, where doctors will monitor your heart rate and blood pressure. You may experience minor soreness, which can last up to a week.

Some patients can go home on the same day. If this is the case, a friend or family member should arrange to drive the patient home. Other patients may need to recover for longer and stay overnight.

Most people find they can resume regular activities several days after the procedure. In some cases, doctors may recommend an additional cardiac ablation if the initial procedure did not produce the desired result. Your doctor may also prescribe certain medications and recommend adopting and maintaining a heart-healthy diet.