Catheter Ablation

What is a Catheter Ablation?

Cardiac ablation is a procedure that can correct heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias).

Cardiac ablation works by scarring or destroying tissue in your heart that triggers or sustains an abnormal heart rhythm. In some cases, cardiac ablation prevents abnormal electrical signals from entering your heart

Cardiac ablation uses long, flexible tubes (catheters) inserted through a vein or artery in your groin and threaded to your heart to deliver energy in the form of heat or extreme cold to modify the tissues in your heart that cause an arrhythmia.

Why do I need a catheter ablation?

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 the proper sequence. Abnormal cells may create disorganized electrical signals that cause irregular or rapid heartbeats called arrhythmias.

What arrhythmia’s can be treated with a catheter ablation?

Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) is a rhythm disturbance that originates in the upper chamber of the heart or the atria. 

SVT Arrhythmia’s include:

  • Atrial Fibrillation
  • Atrial Flutter
  • Atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia ( AVNRT)
  • Atrioventricular reciprocating tachycardia (AVRT)
  • Atrial Tachycardia

Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) is a rapid heart beat that originates in the bottom chambers of the heart, called the ventricles.

Ventricular tachycardia ablation is a procedure to eliminate the areas of the heart where erratic electrical signals arise that can cause your heart to beat ineffectively.

What should I expect during the procedure?

Catheter ablation is performed in the hospital. Before your procedure begins, you will be given a sedative through an intravenous (IV) line to help you relax.   In some situations, anesthesia may be used instead to place you in a sleep-like state. What type of anesthesia you receive depends on your particular situation.

The doctor will insert a needle into the vein in your groin, neck or forearm then thread catheters through the sheath and guide them to several places within your heart. The doctor may inject dye into the catheter to view your blood vessels and heart using X-ray imaging. The catheters have electrodes at the tips that can be used to send electrical impulses to your heart and record your heart's electrical activity.

This process of using imaging and other tests to determine what's causing your arrhythmia is called an electrophysiology (EP) study. An EP study is usually done before cardiac ablation in order to determine the most effective way to treat your arrhythmia.

Once the abnormal heart tissue that's causing the arrhythmia is identified, the doctor will aim the catheter tips at the area of abnormal heart tissue. Energy will travel through the catheter tips to create a scar or destroy the tissue that triggers your arrhythmia.

What are the risks of a catheter ablation?

The risks of an EP Study and catheter ablation are small but as with any invasive procedure, it is not risk free.  Speak to your physician about the risks associated with your specific arrhythmia and procedure. 

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