What you should know
A cardiac ablation is a procedure to treat an arrhythmia, or 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.
Care AgreementYou have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
- The catheter may cause bleeding around your heart, or damage your esophagus, stomach, or nerves. The veins that carry blood from your lungs to your heart could become narrowed. You may bleed more than expected or get an infection. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Even with treatment, your heart rhythm problem may come back, or you may need another procedure.
- If you do not have an ablation, your heart rhythm problems may become life-threatening.
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 caregiver 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 caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
- You may need to take blood thinner medicine to prevent blood clots. You may have blood tests to help caregivers learn how well your blood clots.
- You may need 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, caregivers will move 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 caregivers if you are or think you might be pregnant. Radiation used during this procedure can harm your baby.
The night before your procedure:
Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.
The day of your procedure:
- Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. 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 caregivers 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.
- Caregivers 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 caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
What will happen:
- You may have local anesthesia to numb the area where the ablation catheter will go in. You may instead 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 line to prevent extra heartbeats.
- 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. Caregivers will monitor you closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your caregiver says it is okay. When your caregiver sees that you are okay, you will be taken to your hospital room or allowed to go home.
Contact a caregiver 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.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.