Key Points about Minimally Invasive Septal Ablation

  • A minimally invasive septal ablation is a procedure in which alcohol is injected via a catheter into a section of the heart to shrink the muscle and reduce symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • An alcohol septal ablation can mitigate symptoms while minimizing the risk of complications.
  • People with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy who are older, who have only minor thickening of the heart muscle, and whose symptoms have not responded to medications may be good candidates for this procedure.
  • Recovery from a minimally invasive septal ablation can require up to a three-day hospital stay, after which time your doctor will advise you on next-steps and a longer-term recovery timeline.

Overview

Minimally invasive septal ablation, or an alcohol septal ablation, is a procedure that treats hypertrophic cardiomyopathy--a genetic condition that causes the heart muscle to thicken more than normal. This thickening can inhibit blood flow in the heart, leading to a variety of disruptive symptoms.

An alcohol septal ablation can decrease the size of the heart muscle and improve symptoms. People whose hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has not responded to medication may be eligible for a minimally invasive septal ablation. Ask your doctor about minimally invasive procedures to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. 

About minimally invasive septal ablation

Minimally invasive septal ablation is a treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This procedure is usually an alcohol septal ablation, which involves inserting a thin tube, or catheter, into the groin, and leading it up to a specific artery of the heart. The doctor then uses the tube to inject alcohol into the heart, which kills some of the heart muscle’s cells and leads them to shrink. This newly shrunk heart muscle allows blood to flow more freely through the heart, and eases symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Candidates for minimally invasive septal ablation

People whose hypertrophic cardiomyopathy has not responded to medication may be eligible for a minimally invasive septal ablation. Older adults and people with only minor thickening are often good candidates for the procedure.

Expectations for minimally invasive septal ablation

A minimally invasive septal ablation can last up to two or more hours.

During this procedure, you can expect to:

  • Be awake
  • Be given a blood thinner such as aspirin
  • Be given a medication to promote relaxation
  • Have a tube inserted into the groin

Benefits of minimally invasive septal ablation

A minimally invasive septal ablation can:

  • Mitigate symptoms of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
  • Lower the risk of complications

Risks of minimally invasive septal ablation

Possible risks of minimally invasive septal ablation may include:

  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Heart block--a condition in which electrical signals in the heart are disrupted, causing a decreased heart rate
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clotting
  • Infection
  • An accumulation of fluid surrounding the heart
  • Heart tissue tears
  • Shock

Recovery from minimally invasive septal ablation

Following this procedure, you will recover by lying flat on your back in a hospital bed for several hours, where doctors will monitor your heart rate and breathing. Most patients stay in the intensive care unit for up to three days.

While in the hospital, your doctors may:

  • Prescribe an anticoagulant to prevent blood clots
  • Prescribe medications for pain
  • Recommend a procedure to implant a pacemaker

While a minimally invasive septal ablation usually improves symptoms immediately, symptoms may persist for a period in some patients.

Most patients should be able to resume light physical activity soon after an alcohol ablation. Your doctor will help set up a plan and timeline for returning to normal activities.