What You Need to Know:
Cardiac ablation is a procedure to treat an arrhythmia, or an abnormal heart rhythm. Your heart rhythm is controlled by electrical pathways in your heart. During cardiac ablation, energy is sent to the area of your heart that has an electrical problem. The energy causes a tiny area of the heart muscle to scar. This stops the electrical problem and allows your heart to beat regularly.
The Week Before Your Procedure
- Write down the correct date, time and location of your procedure.
- Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
- Ask your healthcare provider if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
- Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your healthcare provider. Tell your provider if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your provider if you use any herbs, food supplements or over-the-counter medicine.
- Your healthcare provider may order a blood thinner medicine to prevent blood clots. You may have blood tests to help your healthcare providers learn how well your blood clots.
- Your healthcare provider may order blood or urine tests to check your liver and kidney function. You may also need a chest x-ray and EKG to check the function of your heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) may be done to check for blood clots or other problems within your heart. TEE is a type of ultrasound. For a TEE, healthcare providers will insert a tube down your throat and into your esophagus until it is near your heart. A sensor on the end of the tube takes images of your heart. The images are shown on a monitor.
- If you are a woman, tell your healthcare providers if you are, or think you might be, pregnant. Radiation used during this procedure can harm your baby.
The Night Before Your Procedure
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for eating and drinking.
The Day of Your Procedure
- Ask your healthcare provider before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetes drugs, high blood pressure medicines or heart medicines. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
- You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives healthcare providers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
- Healthcare providers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
- An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell your healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
- You may have local anesthesia to numb the area where the ablation catheter will go in. Or you may be given medicine in your IV to make you relaxed or to keep you asleep. If you are awake, you may feel pressure or discomfort when a catheter is first put into the skin.
- One or more catheters will be put into a blood vessel in your groin or neck. X-rays will be taken to help your surgeon guide the catheter through your blood vessels to your heart. You may also have an electrophysiology study. This is a test used to map the electrical pathways in your heart that control your heart rhythm. It helps your surgeon find the exact spot where the ablation needs to be done. After the catheter is placed, small amounts of energy will be sent to the tip of the catheter. This will form a small scar to treat the arrhythmia.
- When the procedure is done, the catheters will be removed, but the sheaths (outer tubes) may be left in until the blood thinner has worn off.
After Your Procedure
You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. When your healthcare provider sees that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room or allowed to go home.
Contact Your Healthcare Provider If
- You cannot make it to your procedure
- You have a fever
- You get a cold or the flu
- You have questions or concerns about your procedure
Seek Care Immediately If
Your heart rhythm problems get worse
Complications, while infrequent, can occur during catheter ablation. Some of the risks include bleeding and bruising where the catheter was inserted, cough, shortness of breath, infection, temporary or permanent stroke, severe complications leading to hospitalization or potentially death. Your physician can further explain these complications as a part of a comprehensive risk/benefit evaluation, as you consider catheter ablation for your condition.
Cardiac ablations may treat varying arrythmias. In combination with a complete program of treatment, catheter ablation may improve your quality of life and eliminate or reduce the unpleasant symptoms of varying arrythmias such as, shortness of breath, fatigue or weakness. Be sure to speak with your doctor about your condition. The procedure may be an effective way to treat atrial fibrillation, improving patients’ quality of life.
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