What is Catheter Ablation?

November 12, 2012

What is Catheter Ablation?

Individuals suffering from an arrhythmia may require a catheter ablation. This is a medical procedure that is sometimes effective alone or may need accompanying treatment.

Facts about catheter ablation

  • If medicine is not proving effective in the treatment of an arrhythmia, a catheter ablation may be recommended.

  • It may also be recommended if the patient is suffering from certain kinds of arrhythmia such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome or additionally if the patient is suffering from abnormal electrical activity in the heart increasing the risk of cardiac arrest.

  • The procedure is done in hospital by doctors, specially trained in cardiac electrophysiology and lasts from 3-6 hours.

  • A thin flexible tube known as an ablation catheter is used to identify the source of the abnormal heartbeats. Several forms of energy are then used to destroy the small area of damaged heart tissue.

  • Following the procedure, the patient must refrain from moving for 4-6 hours. Some people are required to stay over night whilst others are able to go home the same day.

  • In most cases recovery is quick and normal activity can be resumed in around 3 days.

  • Any pain, bleeding or swelling should be reported to the doctor immediately.

  • Potential complications include bleeding, infection and pain at the point of insertion as well as the more serious potential blood clots and puncture of the heart.

Before a catheter ablation

  • It is important to discuss with you doctor any preparations that need to be made before the procedure, restrictions on eating and drinking for example. Consumption of all food and drinks usually has to be stopped by midnight of the day before the procedure.

  • The doctor will also inform you as to whether any medications currently being taken should be stopped before the procedure.

  • Other health conditions such as diabetes or kidney disease could require further treatment or alterations to the procedure in order to prevent complications.

  • Arrangements may need to be made into getting home from the hospital, as it is not always safe to drive.

During the catheter ablation

  • A medicine will be inserted into your body through an IV line before the procedure to help you relax. You will also be connected up to machines that will monitor your heart.

  • Depending on where the tube will be inserted, either the upper thigh, arm or neck will be cleaned and made numb and a needle is inserted through the skin and into the blood vessel. A guide wire is inserted to guide the catheter to the correct part of the heart.

  • The end of the catheter contains electrodes, which are then applied to the effected part of the heart to record electrical activity. The tip of the catheter is used to scar the damaged heart tissue so the abnormal electrical signals are unable to travel past the scar into the rest of the heart, causing arrhythmias.

  • The medication will make the patient feel sleepy and they will not be aware of much feeling through the procedure. Some people are aware of a burning sensation in the chest as the energy is applied and they will often be aware of changes to their heartbeat as the electrical signals are studied.

  • After the procedure the ablation catheter is removed and the opening is closed up and bandaged.

After the catheter ablation

  • The doctor will advise you o

    n what medicines should be taken and how much physical activity you should expect to be able to do. They will also instruct you on how to care for the opening and how often to change the bandages.

  • Recovery is usually quick, although there may be some initial stiffness from lying down for many hours. There will be some bruising around the area of insertion and it will probably feel tender for around 1 week.

  • Normal activity should be fine about 3 days after the procedure.

  • Any unusual symptoms should be looked out for and reported to the doctor.

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