Catheter ablation; Radiofrequency catheter ablation; Cryoablation
Cardiac ablation is a procedure that is used to scar small areas in your heart that may be involved in your heart rhythm problems. This can prevent the abnormal electrical signals or rhythms from moving through the heart.
During the procedure, small wires called electrodes are placed inside your heart to measure your heart's electrical activity. When the source of the problem is found, the tissue causing the problem is destroyed.
There are two methods for performing cardiac ablation:
The type of procedure you have will depend on what kind of abnormal heart rhythm you have.
Cardiac ablation procedures are done in a hospital laboratory by trained staff. This includes cardiologists (heart doctors), technicians, and nurses. The setting is safe and controlled so your risk is as low as possible.
You will be given medicine (a sedative) before the procedure to help you relax.
Once the catheter is in place, your doctor will place small electrodes in different areas of your heart.
Catheter ablation is a long procedure. It can last 4 or more hours. During the procedure your heart will be monitored closely. A health care provider may ask you if you are having symptoms at different times during the procedure. Symptoms you may feel are:
Cardiac ablation is used to treat certain heart rhythm problems that medicines are not controlling. These problems may be dangerous if they are not treated.
Common symptoms of heart rhythm problems may include:
Some heart rhythm problems are:
A wide range of symptoms, including palpitations, dyspnea, syncope, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, and lightheadedness can be produced by different types of cardiac arrhythmia.
Catheter ablation is generally safe. Talk with your provider about these rare complications:
Always tell your provider what drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.
During the days before the procedure:
On the day of the procedure:
Pressure to reduce bleeding is put on the area where the catheters were inserted into your body. You will be kept in bed for at least 1 hour. You may need to stay in bed for up to 5 or 6 hours. Your heart rhythm will be checked during this time.
Your doctor will decide whether you can go home on the same day, or if you will need to stay in the hospital overnight for continued heart monitoring. You will need someone to drive you home after your procedure.
For 2 or 3 days after your procedure, you may have these symptoms:
Your doctor may keep you on your medicines, or give you new ones that help control your heart rhythm.
Success rates are different depending on what type of heart rhythm problem is being treated.
Calkins H, Brugada J, Packer DL, Cappato R, Chen SA, Crijns HJ, et al. (HRS/EHRA/ECAS expert consensus statement on catheter and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation: recommendations for personnel, policy, procedures and follow-up. A report of the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) Task Force on catheter and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation. Heart Rhythm. 2007:4(6):816-61.
Lustgarten DL. History of cardiac cryosurgery and cryoablation. In: Bredikis AJ, Wilber DJ, eds. Cryoablation of Cardiac Arrhythmias. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 1.
Miller JM, Zipes DP. Therapy for cardiac arrhythmias. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 35.
Last reviewed on: 10/26/2014
Reviewed by: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.