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Ventricular tachycardia ablation

Overview

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.

Ventricular tachycardia occurs when electrical signals within the lower chambers of your heart (ventricles) cause your heart to beat too quickly. The goal of ventricular tachycardia ablation is to stop the incorrect electrical signals and restore a normal heart rhythm.

Why it's done

Doctors use ventricular tachycardia ablation to control ventricular tachycardia. If you have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), ventricular tachycardia ablation may reduce the frequency of shocks you receive from your ICD device.

Ventricular tachycardia ablation isn't helpful for all types of ventricular tachycardia. And it's not always your first treatment option — your doctor may recommend medications and other procedures first.

Discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Together you can weigh the benefits and risks of ventricular tachycardia ablation.

What you can expect

Ventricular tachycardia ablation is performed in the hospital. You'll receive a medication called a sedative that helps you relax. In some cases, you'll receive anesthesia to place you in a sleep-like state.

A small area near a vein in your groin is numbed and catheters are inserted into the vein. Your doctor carefully guides the catheters through the vein and into your heart.

The catheters are equipped with electrodes that are used to record your heart's electrical activity and to send electrical impulses. Your doctor uses this information to determine the best place to apply the ventricular tachycardia ablation treatment.

Ventricular tachycardia ablation may be applied:

  • Inside the heart. If your abnormal heartbeat is coming from inside your heart, special catheters are used to transmit electrical energy (radiofrequency ablation) or extreme cold (cryoablation) to the target area, damaging the tissue and causing scarring. In some cases, this will block the electrical signals that are contributing to your ventricular tachycardia.
  • Outside the heart (epicardial ablation). If your abnormal heartbeat is being caused by tissue on the outside of your heart, your doctor may use a long needle to access your heart. The needle is inserted through the skin on your chest and advanced through the lining of the fluid-filled sack (pericardium) that surrounds your heart. A hollow tube (sheath) is inserted and catheters are passed through the tube to access the outside surface of the heart.

Radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation can be used during epicardial ablation. Sometimes ventricular tachycardia ablation involves treatment inside the heart and outside the heart at the same time.

Ventricular tachycardia ablation typically takes three to six hours. Afterward, you'll be taken to a recovery area where your condition will be closely monitored. Depending on your condition, you may spend a night in the hospital and be allowed to go home the next day.

Your doctor will schedule follow-up examinations to monitor your heart. Most people experience an improvement in quality of life after ventricular tachycardia ablation. You may feel less tired or experience fewer ICD shocks.

But there's a chance that ventricular tachycardia may return. In these cases, the procedure may be repeated or you and your doctor might consider other treatments.

Epicardial ablation

Epicardial ablation is a procedure to destroy small spots of tissue on the outside of your heart that are sending incorrect electrical signals that cause your heart to beat too fast. Catheters are inserted through the skin on your chest and into the space around your heart (pericardium). Heat or cold energy can be transmitted through the catheters and used to destroy the abnormal tissue.

Last updated: March 27th, 2018

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