Catheter ablation is a procedure used to selectively destroy areas of the heart that are causing a heart rhythm problem. During this procedure, thin, flexible wires are inserted into a blood vessel in the thigh, groin, neck or elbow and threaded up through the blood vessel and into the heart under X-ray guidance. The wires allow the doctor to record the electrical activity of your heart and determine what kind of heart rhythm problem you have.
Then, your doctor will find the tiny areas that are causing the rhythm problem. The wires are used to send energy to those areas in the heart. This energy is in the form of heat or freezing cold. The heat or cold destroys, or ablates, the heart tissue. Destroying this tissue can cure your heart rhythm problem.
Catheter ablation can be called different names based on the type of energy used to create the heat or cold. If heat from radio waves is used, it is called radiofrequency catheter ablation. If cold temperatures are used, it is called cryoablation.
Catheter ablation is done in a hospital where the person can be carefully monitored. The procedure is done with an electrophysiology (EP) study, which can identify specific areas of heart tissue where the fast heart rate may start or where abnormal electrical pathways are located inside or outside the atrioventricular (AV) node. This allows doctors to pinpoint exactly what tiny area of heart muscle to destroy.
A local anesthetic is used at the site where the catheter is inserted. The person usually stays awake during the procedure but may be sedated.
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