Cardiac Catheter Ablation
Sometimes a problem with the heart’s electrical system can cause an abnormally fast heart rhythm that prevents the heart from pumping blood effectively. These heart rhythm conditions include atrial fibrillation (AFib), atrial flutter and ventricular tachycardia. If medication doesn’t work to control the abnormal heart rhythm, a cardiac catheter ablation procedure may be recommended.
Baptist Health is nationally recognized for excellence in treating heart rhythm problems. We offer a full spectrum of heart care and the latest approaches to cardiac catheter ablation. Best of all, you’ll appreciate convenient appointment times, locations near you and a personalized focus to meet your needs before, during and after your procedure.
What is Cardiac Catheter Ablation?
Cardiac catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses heat, extreme cold or radiofrequency energy to damage small areas of heart tissue. The damaged tissue blocks transmission of abnormal electrical signals that can trigger rapid heart rhythms. The procedure is done in an electrophysiology lab or a cardiac catheterization lab in a hospital.
What Can Cardiac Catheter Ablation Accomplish?
If an abnormally fast heart rhythm does not resolve after nonsurgical treatment, a cardiac catheter ablation may be recommended to:
- Relieve symptoms including weakness, fainting and shortness of breath
- Prevent abnormal electrical signals from triggering rapid heartbeat
- Eliminate the need for long-term medications to prevent AFib
What Can I Expect During the Procedure?
Cardiac catheter ablation procedures are performed in specialized hospital labs. You will be given moderate sedation to prevent pain and a sedative to keep you relaxed but awake. The procedure will last about four hours.
To begin the procedure, small punctures are made in a vein at your groin and neck. Catheters (long, thin flexible tubes) are carefully threaded into the punctures and through your veins to your heart. A tiny camera at the end of the catheter records its position on a video screen. Your heart rhythm is recorded and an electrical map of your heart shows the location of abnormal tissue that is causing the fast heart rhythm. Thin wires called electrode catheters are threaded through the catheter and placed on the abnormal tissue. A mild, painless pulse of heat, extreme cold or radiofrequency energy is sent along the wires to the abnormal tissue. This damages (ablates) the tissue but does not affect the strength of your heart.
Once the catheters are removed, you will be moved to a recovery room, lying flat. Your heartbeat and vital signs will be monitored. Your physician will determine if you can go home that day or if you must stay overnight for observation. Some pain and swelling at the site of the punctures is normal after your procedure. Your physician will let you know when you can return to work and whether you will need to make any modifications to your daily activities and if you will need to take new medication.
Estimated Recovery Timeline
It is common to experience skipped heartbeats or some periods of rapid heartbeat after a cardiac catheter ablation procedure. These will subside as your heart heals. You may need to continue your heart medication for a few months after the procedure or start some new medications to prevent blood clots. It is important to keep your follow-up appointments after your procedure. In general, people recover to their fullest potential extent about three months after the procedure.
Cardiac Catheter Ablation Possible Risks
Any medical procedure carries risks, but cardiac catheter ablation is typically a safe and effective procedure. You will be given instructions about how to avoid these specific risks, as well as what to do if you experience these issues after your procedure:
- Bleeding where the catheter was inserted
- Blood clots
Next Steps with MyChart
Discover MyChart, a free patient portal that combines your Baptist Health medical records into one location. Schedule appointments, review lab results, financials, and more! If you have questions, give us a call.