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Cardiac Ablation

Cardiac ablation is a procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to destroy a small area of heart tissue that is causing rapid and irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). Destroying this tissue helps your heart beat regularly.

Cardiac ablation is used when medicines are not working for you. It is low-risk and successful for most people. If there are problems, they are usually due to the use of the catheters. Those are the long, thin tubes that doctors insert into your arteries or veins. Inserting the catheters can occasionally damage your blood vessel or cause bleeding or infection.

Why choose Presbyterian for your cardiac ablation?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has a skilled electrophysiology team who can provide a wide range of cardiac rhythm treatments. Their electrophysiology cardiologists are trained in many different techniques and procedures, many of which can provide you with a shorter recovery period and the opportunity to recover at home.

Who is eligible for a cardiac ablation?

Special cells in your heart create electrical signals that travel along pathways to your heart. These signals make the heart’s upper and lower chambers beat in the proper sequence.

If you have abnormal cells, the electrical signals may cause irregular or rapid heartbeats called arrhythmias. When this happens, your heart may not pump blood effectively. You may feel faint, short of breath, and weak. You may also feel your heart pounding.

Medicines usually work very well for people. If they do not, doctors might suggest cardiac ablation.

What conditions can be treated with a cardiac ablation?

The procedure is often used to treat a condition called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT. SVT occurs because of abnormal conduction fibers in the heart.

Catheter ablation is also used to help control other heart rhythm problems such as atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. Catheter ablation destroys the abnormal tissue without damaging the rest of the heart.

How do I prepare for a cardiac ablation?

Usually, you’ll be asked not to eat or drink anything for at least six to eight hours before the procedure.

Tell your doctor about any medicines you take. He or she may ask you not to take them before your test. Don’t stop taking your medicines until your doctor tells you to.

Arrange for someone to drive you home after your procedure.

What should I expect during my cardiac ablation?

  • This procedure takes place in a special hospital room called an electrophysiology (EP) lab or a cardiac catheterization (cath) lab.
  • A nurse will put an IV (intravenous line) into a vein in your arm. This way you can get medicine (anesthesia) to prevent pain. You may also get a medicine (sedative) to help you relax. You will be awake during the procedure.
  • The doctor will make a needle puncture through your skin and into the blood vessel (typically a vein, but sometimes an artery) in your groin. A small tube (called a sheath) will be inserted into the blood vessel. You may feel some pressure. You shouldn’t feel any pain.
  • The doctor inserts several long, thin tubes with wires, called electrode catheters, through the sheath.
  • The entire procedure usually takes two to four hours.
  • Afterward, you’ll be moved to a recovery room. The sheath may stay in your leg for several hours. You have to lie flat.
  • After the doctor or nurse removes the sheath, a nurse will put pressure on the puncture site to stop the bleeding. You should keep your leg straight for six to eight hours.
  • You can usually go home the same day, or you may have to stay overnight.

How do I care for myself after my cardiac ablation?

Follow the instructions your nurse or doctor gave you. Aspirin is often prescribed for two to four weeks to minimize the risk of clotting. Most people can return to their normal activities the day after they leave the hospital.

Call 911 if you notice:

  • The puncture site swelling up.

  • Bleeding from the puncture site.

Call your doctor if:

  • You feel short of breath.

  • You have a fast or irregular heartbeat.

  • You feel sick to your stomach or sweat a lot.

  • The area around a puncture site looks more bruised.

  • The spot begins to swell, or fluids drain from it.

  • You feel dizzy or lightheaded enough to have to lie down.

  • You feel pain or discomfort in your chest that moves into your neck, jaw, or arm.

  • Your leg with the puncture becomes numb or tingles, or your foot feels cold or turns blue.