Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Feb 6, 2023.
What do I need to know about cardiac ablation?
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.
How do I get ready for cardiac ablation?
- Your healthcare provider will tell you how to prepare. He or she may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of the procedure. Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure.
- Tell your healthcare provider about all medicines you currently take. He or she will tell you if you need to stop any medicine for the procedure, and when to stop. He or she will tell you which medicines to take or not take on the day of the procedure.
- You may need to take blood thinner medicine to prevent blood clots. You may need blood tests to help healthcare providers 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 your heart function.
- Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) is an ultrasound that may be used to check for blood clots or heart problems.
- 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.
- An IV will be placed in a vein. You may get medicines or liquid through the IV.
- An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. Local anesthesia may be used 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. Tell healthcare providers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.
What will happen during cardiac ablation?
- One or more catheters will be put into a blood vessel in your groin or neck. X-rays will be taken to help your healthcare provider 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 provider 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.
What should I expect after cardiac ablation?
You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. Healthcare providers will monitor you closely for any problems. They will check the catheter insertion site regularly for bleeding. You will also have EKG monitoring done to check your heart rate and rhythm. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay.
- A spirometer is a small device used to help keep your lungs clear.
- Rest and keep your leg straight for up to 6 hours, or as directed. Your healthcare provider will then ask you to walk to prevent blood clots from forming.
- Blood thinners help prevent blood clots.
- Antiarrhythmics help slow your heartbeat and make it more regular.
- Pain medicine may be given.
- Steroids may be given to decrease inflammation.
- Antiulcer medicine helps decrease the amount of acid that is normally made by the stomach. You may need to take this medicine to help the lining of your stomach heal or to prevent an ulcer.
What are the risks of cardiac ablation?
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 develop a life-threatening blood clot. Even with treatment, your heart rhythm problem may come back, or you may need another procedure.
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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.
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