Catheter Ablation for Arrhythmia

Overview

During this procedure, a physician administers electrical impulses through a catheter placed in the heart. These carefully controlled impulses modify the pathways that carry the electrical signals of the heartbeat. Ablation can correct an abnormal heart rhythm.

Preparation

In preparation for the procedure, the patient is positioned and is given a sedative. This will make the patient feel relaxed and drowsy. Several monitors are attached to the patient’s chest and body. The monitors will be closely watched to track the patient’s heart rhythm and blood pressure during the procedure.

The Catheters

The physician may use a combination of specialized catheters for the procedure. Diagnostic catheters are used to map the heart and identify problem areas. Ablation catheters are used to deliver control energy impulses to the heart. The number and type of catheters used depends on the physician and the specific procedure.

Inserting the Catheters

The physician numbs the catheter insertion site (or sites) with local anesthesia. Common insertion sites are the neck, arm or groin. The physician makes one or more small openings to access a large blood vessel and carefully inserts the catheters.

Accessing the Heart

The physician guides the catheters into the heart with the aid of a fluoroscope (a camera that creates a real-time moving x-ray). Once the catheters are inside the heart, the physician identifies the areas of tissue that need treatment. These are places where the tissues of the heart are routing the heart’s own electrical signal incorrectly.

Ablation

The physician positions the ablation catheter and delivers bursts of energy to the tissue. Multiple areas may be treated. The ablation reroutes the electrical pathways inside the heart, correcting any abnormal pathways. After these electrical pathways are corrected, the heart can beat normally.

End of Procedure

When the procedure is complete, the catheters are removed and the insertion site is bandaged. The patient will be taken to a recovery room for rest and monitoring. Some patients may be discharged the same day, but others may be kept overnight.