Cardiac ablation is a surgical procedure, that is undertaken as a treatment method for cardiac arrhythmia. We shall understand this procedure in the following paragraphs. However, before we understand cardiac ablation, let us see what is cardiac arrhythmia.
What is arrhythmia?
Cardiac arrhythmia is a group of condition wherein one observes irregular electrical activity in the heart. This means the heartbeat is either too slow or too fast. In some cases it maybe regular or irregular. Not all arrhythmias can be fatal. However, they may lead to sudden cardiac arrest.
Who requires cardiac ablation?
The electrical system of the heart helps controlling the heart rate and rhythm. So, with every beat, the electrical signal moves across the top of the heart right down to the bottom. This electric signal helps the heart contract, resulting in pumping of blood. When this signal is disturbed it leads to arrhythmia.
In order to treat these arrhythmias, one may have to undergo cardiac ablation. This is done only when medications do not help in controlling these arrhythmias. If left untreated, it may lead to ventricular fibrillation and sudden cardiac arrest. Thus, to save one’s life, cardiac ablation is necessary.
The following arrhythmias can be treated with the help of ablation:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Atrial flutter
- Accessory Pathway
- AV Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia
- Ventricular tachycardia
- Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
What is cardiac ablation?
This is an invasive procedure that involves the use of catheters that are inserted into certain veins to reach the problem areas of the heart. Energy is passed through these catheters, that scar or destroys the tissues that cause arrhythmias. Thus, stopping the abnormal rhythms from passing through the heart.
Risks of cardiac ablation
There is a very small amount of risk related to cardiac ablation. These include hematoma, that is, a collection of blood under the skin at the site of insertion of the catheter. Thus, one may suffer from bruising around the groin. In some cases, the normal electric pathway may be affected. This may lead to placement of an artificial pacemaker in the heart.
Procedure for cardiac ablation
The procedure for cardiac ablation takes about 3 to 6 hours to be completed successfully. There are certain steps that are commonly undertaken before, during and after cardiac ablation. Let us have a look at this step by step.
Before the Procedure
The doctor will ask you to stop eating and drinking at least 12 hours before the procedure is scheduled. Those who are on warfarin medications, may have to stop the pills at least 3 days before the procedure. Other medications that include aspirin will have to be stopped as well.
You will be asked to wear the hospital gown before the procedure. Do not wear any jewelry or other valuables. Before the procedure, certain preliminary tests like blood test, X-ray and ECG will be conducted. Make sure you let the doctor know about any allergy you may have, are on Viagra or are pregnant.
An intravenous (IV) line will be inserted in your arm. Through this you may be given sedatives that help you sleep. However, in this case, you are well aware of your surroundings, even if you are asleep. The region where the catheters are to be inserted will be cleaned with an antiseptic, shaved and will be made numb.
During the Procedure
There are many flexible, long catheters that are inserted into the femoral vein, internal jugular vein or subclavian vein. Slowly, the catheter is pushed towards the heart. Finally, when it reaches the point of the problem, the doctor will check the conduction system of the heart. With the help of a pacemaker type device, he will send electric impulses to locate the point of origin of the arrhythmia.
Now, energy will be applied through the catheter and the tissue will either be heated or frozen. This helps in destroying (ablate) the abnormal tissue. Thus, getting rid of the arrhythmia.
After the Procedure
After the procedure, the doctor will apply the pressure on the area after removing the catheters. This will help in the prevention of bleeding. One needs to hold their legs still for at least 2 to 6 hours. A sterile bandage will be placed on the site. One may have to stay overnight in the hospital after the procedure, depending on their condition.
One may feel fatigued for a day or two after the procedure. Chest pain and discomfort are common after cardiac ablation. Within a couple of days, one may return to their normal activities.
Cardiac ablation is a highly successful procedure. The success rate is about 95%. The complications such as bleeding, blood clots, etc. are as low as 3%.
Once cardiac ablation is successful, one may have to quit smoking, avoid caffeine, alcohol and maintain a healthy lifestyle. This simple procedure can turn out to be life saving in many cases. Speak to your doctor in detail about cardiac ablation merits along with the risk involved.
Written by: healthplus24.com team
Date last updated: February 11, 2015