An abnormal area of heart tissue can, in some cases, produce irregularities in the transmission of electrical impulses in the heart. This results in a cardiac arrhythmia -- an abnormal, often rapid or irregular heartbeat. As a result of a cardiac arrhythmia, the heart may not able to pump blood normally. Depending on the type of arrhythmia, this situation can lead to a variety of symptoms, including congestive heart failure, stroke, or even sudden cardiac death.
Physicians can often cure arrhythmias by interrupting the path of the electrical impulses that produce them using a technique called catheter ablation. Cardiologists can often treat both supraventricular arrhythmias (including atrial fibrillation) and ventricular arrhythmias as part of a non-surgical catheter procedure.
Catheter ablation causes less discomfort and results in faster recovery times than open-heart surgery. Catheter ablation procedures are highly effective, with success rates often greater than 90% for most arrhythmias. These procedures are low risk, and typically require less than a 24-hour hospital stay.
In catheter ablation, electrode catheters are inserted through veins and guided to various positions inside the heart. Using these catheters, radiofrequency energy or freezing temperature is applied to the abnormal electrical pathway in the heart tissue. This interrupts the path of the abnormal electrical impulses, and cures the arrhythmia.