Cardiac ablation is a procedure performed by a cardiac electrophysiologist in the hospital that can correct heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias). Ablation typically uses small, flexible catheters inserted through a vein in the groin and carefully advanced to the heart in order to correct structural problems that cause an arrhythmia. Cardiac ablation is often used to treat certain heart rhythm problems that have not responded to medication or other forms of treatment.
The Cardiac Ablation Procedure
Before the cardiac ablation procedure begins, an intravenous line with a sedating solution is inserted into the arm. Parts of the groin, arm, or neck are numbed and a needle is used to open the skin to reach the blood vessel behind it. A thin tube, known as a sheath, is then placed into this opening. A long, thin flexible tube called an ablation catheter is inserted into the blood vessel in the groin using a guide wire. A special dye is then injected into the catheter to display the inside of the heart on a series of X-rays, known as angiograms. The ablation catheter uses electrodes to detect an arrhythmia, and emits radiofrequency energy to destroy portions of the heart tissue that cause the irregular heart rhythm. Patients are usually asleep during the procedure, however, If patients remain awake, they may experience slight chest discomfort from the radiofrequency energy and a burning sensation where the catheter is inserted. When the procedure is completed, the ablation catheter, guide wire, and sheath are removed, and the blood vessel is closed up and bandaged.
Recovery from Cardiac Ablation
Immediately after the cardiac ablation, the patient is moved to a recovery area, where they are monitored for several hours. Most patients go home the same day as the procedure, however, in some cases, an overnight hospital stay may be required. After the procedure, patients may experience soreness or bruising at the site where the catheter was inserted. Regular activities can usually be resumed within a few days.
Risks of Cardiac Ablation
While complications are rare, there are certain risks associated with cardiac ablation. Risks include:
- Blood clots
- Infection where the catheter was inserted
- Blood vessel damage
- Kidney damage
- Puncture of the heart
- Damage to the heart's electrical system that requires a pacemaker
The risk of complications is greater in patients age 75 and older, as well as in individuals with diabetes or kidney disease. Cardiac ablation is considered an effective form of treatment for heart arrhythmia, however, some patients may need to have the procedure repeated.
Cardiac Education and Primary Prevention
This is one of the most important services the physicians provide as it does not only apply to patients with heart disease but also to everybody who seeks to prevent heart disease in the future. To be educated about heart healthy living and how to avoid risk factors for heart disease prevents heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.
Pacemaker / Defibrillator Implantation
This is a limited surgical procedure for patients with a dangerously low heart rate during which a small generator is placed under the skin and small electrodes are advanced through blood vessels into the right side of the heart, so that the heart rate cannot drop too low.