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Catheter Ablation

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Ablation at the EHMC Arrhythmia Center

Your doctor may decide to perform ablation to cauterize the abnormal electrical pathways that are causing your arrhythmia. Ablation is particularly helpful for many patients with atrial arrhythmias as well as some with ventricular arrhythmias.

If this approach is an option for you, your doctor will most likely perform the procedure at the same time you are undergoing an electrophysiology (EP) study. The EP study itself is done to diagnose your disorder; ablation is used to cure it. Doing both during the same procedure is both cost-effective and more convenient. To learn more about the specifics of this type of testing and how to prepare for it, read Electrophysiology Testing at EHMC .

During the Procedure

Once your doctor has decided that ablation may help you, he will insert an ablation catheter into a vein in your thigh and advance it into your heart. After positioning this catheter next to the abnormal electrical pathway, he will pass radiofrequency energy or cryotherapy (depending on the type of ablation) through it. The tip of the catheter will heat or freeze the tissue, thereby eliminating your heart rhythm problem. Ablation destroys abnormal arrhythmia-causing tissue, making it incapable of transmitting electrical impulses.

Ablation is not a painful procedure, though you may feel some mild chest discomfort when the radiofrequency energy is passed through the catheter. Be sure to tell the EP team what you feel through the entire procedure. If you experience chest pain, heaviness, or discomfort of any kind, tell the staff immediately.

When the procedure is over, the doctor will remove the catheters and apply pressure over the needle-stick area where they were inserted, to prevent bleeding. You will be brought to hospital room, via a stretcher, where you will recover.

After the Procedure

  1. Once in your room, the staff will monitor you closely, taking your blood pressure, pulse, and temperature frequently and checking the catheter insertion sites. Your care partner should stay with you in the room.
  2. It is important that you keep the leg in which the catheters were placed in a straight position to prevent bleeding. Do not bend it. Your nurse will give you specific instructions about how long you will need to do this.
  3. You will be able to eat once you awaken fully from the sedation.
  4. Do not try to get out of bed alone; a staff member will help you get out of bed for the first time after your procedure.
  5. If you feel palpitations, chest pain, or any unusual sensations, tell your nurse immediately.

Going Home

  1. Many patients are able to go home the same day as their ablation. Some patients, such as those who have ablation in the left atrium, stay overnight for additional monitoring while they receive anticlotting drugs.
  2. Your doctors will meet with you before your discharge and discuss the results of your EP study and ablation. We will meet with you after the procedure to provide you with specific discharge instructions.
  3. Because the sedatives used during the procedure can make you feel tired and sleepy, you should not drive yourself or take public transportation home, or drink alcoholic beverages. Arrange for a care partner to bring you home and to stay with you for at least 24 hours.
  4. Generally you can remove the small bandage on the morning after the procedure, and then you may shower. Do not take a bath or swim for one week.
  5. You can usually resume your normal activities the following day, or as directed by your doctor. Avoid lifting or straining, heavy housework, sports, or exercise until directed by your physician.
  6. The insertion sites will naturally heal within a week. Soreness, slight swelling, and possible bruising is normal. If any bleeding occurs at the insertion sites, lie down and apply continuous pressure to the area for at least 10 minutes. If the bleeding continues, call 911 or your local emergency number for assistance.
  7. Increased pain and swelling, redness, drainage, delayed healing, warm skin around the insertion sites, or circulatory problems may signal an infection. If you experience any of these symptoms, call us at 201-894-3533, 24 hours a day to speak with a physician.
  8. You may experience some discomfort, redness, and itching around the areas where the chest pads were placed. If these symptoms do not resolve within a few days, call us at 201-894-3533.
  9. For a few weeks after your ablation, you may feel occasional skipped heartbeats and/or palpitations that last about 2 to 3 beats. These are common symptoms that will become less frequent over time. If you experience a recurrence of your arrhythmia, have chest pain, or feel dizzy or short of breath, call us at 201-894-3533.
  10. Be sure to schedule a follow-up appointment with us for two weeks after the procedure. We can be reached at 201-894-3533.