Arrhythmia ablation

What is Arrhythmia?

 

Cells in your heart create electrical signals that travel along pathways to the chambers of your heart. These signals make the heart’s upper and lower chambers beat in proper sequences. Abnormal cells can create disorganized electrical signals. This can cause irregular or rapid heartbeats. This is called arrhythmias. When this happens, your heart may not pump blood effectively. Some feeling you may experience include:

  • Feeling faint

  • Shortness of breath and weak.

  • Pounding heart.

What is ablation?

 

Ablation is a procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to destroy the small area of heart tissue that is causing rapid and irregular heartbeats. Destroying this tissue will help restore your heart’s regular rhythm. Ablation is usually used when medications are not tolerated or effective. The difference between medication and ablation is that medicine controls the abnormal heart tissues that causes arrhythmias whereas ablation destroys this tissue, and is more likely to be curative.

This procedure is considered low risk and is successful in most people.

Who needs ablation?

Medicines to treat rapid and irregular heartbeats work very well for most people. However,  they may not work for everyone, and  may cause side effects in some. In such cases, doctors may suggest ablation. 

Ablation is also used to help control other heart rhythm problems such as atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation. 

What happens during ablation?

  • Your doctor performs the procedure together with a team of nurses and technicians. The procedure is done in a hospital electrophysiology lab.

  • An IV (intravenous line) will be inserted into a vein in your arm for anesthesia.

  • Cleaning and shaving of the body part where your doctor will be working on will be done.

  • After local anesthesia, your 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 fine tube (called a sheath) will be inserted into the blood vessel and a catheter will be guided into your vessel through the sheath. 

  • Several long, thin tubes with wires (electrode catheters) will be inserted through the sheath and feed these tubes into your heart.

  • Small electrical impulse will be sent through to locate the abnormal tissue causing arrhythmia. Electrical impulses activate the abnormal tissue that is causing your arrhythmia.

  • The catheter will be placed at the exact site inside your heart where the abnormal cells are. Then a mild, painless, radiofrequency energy is sent to the tissue that destroys heart muscle cells in a very small area.

  • The procedure usually takes 2 to 4 hours. 

What happens after ablation?

  • You will be transferred to a recovery room to rest for several hours.

  • Lie flat during this time.

  • After the removal of the catheter, keep your leg straight for 6 to 8 hours. you will be told when you can get out of bed.

  • Your heartbeat and vital signs will be checked.

  • Aspirin is often prescribed for 2 to 4 weeks to minimize risk of clot formation at ablation sites.

Are there any risks?

  • Blood vessels may bleed or get infection during the insertion of the catheter. These are rare.