Catheter ablation is a procedure that uses radiofrequency heat (similar to microwave heat) to destroy abnormal heart tissue that causes irregular and rapid heartbeats known as cardiac arrhythmias.
As your cardiologist would explain, cardiac arrhythmias can cause shortness of breath, weakness and fainting as a result of your heart’s failure to effectively pump blood. While medications for arrhythmias exist and work well for many people, these only help to control the abnormal heart tissue and not destroy it.
Catheter ablation is a low-risk procedure that is successful for up to 90% of patients. Your cardiologist would most likely recommend the procedure to treat supraventricular tachycardia (SVT),atrial fibrillation and certain times of ventricular tachycardia which can be cured.
When your cardiologist recommends a catheter ablation, he will ask you to prepare these five things for the procedure:
1. Diet. Your cardiologist will advise on what you should not eat or drink for at least 6-8 hours before your procedure.
2. Medication. If you need to take some medicines, inform your cardiologist about it; he may allow you to take the medicine with a sip of water or you may be asked not to take it. Do not skip taking your medicines unless your cardiologist tells you so.
3. Personal Effects. Leave your jewellery, gadgets and other personal belongings at home. You will not need any of these during the procedure.
4. Direction to the lab. Get yourself familiar with the location of the Electrophysiology (EP) lab beforehand. Ask your cardiologist if you can meet with the nurses and the EP staff before the procedure so that you can feel more at ease. Do not hesitate to ask them questions.
5. Arrangements for going home. Your cardiologist will advise you to arrange for someone to drive you home after the procedure. Some patients recover a few hours after the procedure; others may be required to stay in the hospital overnight. Your nurse will provide instructions for home care after you are discharged.
A catheter ablation is a specialist treatment conducted by your cardiologist who is trained in electrophysiology. It involves placing electrodes inside your heart, through catheter lines, to measure your heart’s electrical or rhythmic activity, and applying radiofrequency heat to destroy abnormal heart tissue that is causing abnormal electrical signals or rhythms.
Before the procedure, you will be given a mild sedative to help you relax. A nurse will clean the skin on your neck, arm or groin. It is in one of these areas, usually the groin, where your cardiologist will cut a small opening through which he will insert the catheter lines. Once the catheter is in place, your cardiologist will send electrodes to your heart to determine the source of abnormal heart rhythm and destroy it.
Your cardiologist will have a team of EP technicians and nurses to assist him in the procedure. Your heart will be closely monitored throughout the ablation, which may take anywhere from 4 hours or more, depending on the severity of the problem.
As your cardiologist would explain, you can resume with your normal activity one to two days after your catheter ablation, but you will not be allowed to do strenuous physical activity for up to one week. Some patients are prescribed to take aspirin to prevent blood clots.
In the event you observe bleeding or swelling at the site where the opening was made, or experience pain, call your doctor right away.