Cardiac ablation is a procedure that is used to scar small areas in your heart that may be involved in your heart rhythm problems. This can prevent the abnormal electrical signals or rhythms from moving through the heart.
During the procedure, small wires called electrodes are placed inside your heart to measure your heart's electrical activity. When the source of the problem is found, the tissue causing the problem is destroyed.
Catheter ablation; Radiofrequency catheter ablation; Cryoablation
There are two methods for performing cardiac ablation:
- Radiofrequency ablation uses heat energy to eliminate the problem area.
- Cryoablation uses very cold temperatures.
The type of procedure you have will depend on what kind of abnormal heart rhythm you have.
Cardiac ablation procedures are done in a hospital laboratory by trained staff. This includes cardiologists (heart doctors), technicians, and nurses. The setting is safe and controlled so your risk is as low as possible.
You will be given medicine (a sedative) before the procedure to help you relax.
- The skin on your neck, arm, or groin will be cleaned well and made numb with an anesthetic.
- Next, the doctor will make a small cut in the skin.
- A small, flexible tube (catheter) will be inserted through this cut into one of the blood vessels in the area. The doctor will use live x-ray images to carefully guide the catheter up into your heart.
Once the catheter is in place, your doctor will place small electrodes in different areas of your heart.
- These electrodes are connected to monitors that allow the cardiologist to tell what area in your heart is causing problems with your heart rhythm. In most cases, there are one or more specific areas.
- Once the source of the problem has been found, one of the catheter lines is used to send electrical (or sometimes cold) energy to the problem area.
- This creates a small scar that causes the heart rhythm problem to stop.
Catheter ablation is a long procedure. It can last 4 or more hours. During the procedure your heart will be monitored closely. A health care provider may ask you if you are having symptoms at different times during the procedure. Symptoms you may feel are:
- A brief burning when medicines are injected
- A faster or stronger heartbeat
- Burning when the electrical energy is used