An ablation is a procedure done to help some people with abnormal heart rhythms. It isn't appropriate for everyone, but it can really help the right people. Ablation is one of the most complex procedures done in medicine. Patients are selected carefully, and only by a cardiac electrophysiologist. The procedure is done in an electrophysiology lab (EP Lab), with you very sleepy, or even put "totally under". Special IV's are put in the big blood vessels in your groin, and sometimes your neck or under your collarbone. Long skinny wires are advanced into your heart, using XRays to guide the doctor. A special computerized system is often used to guide the wires after this. Using more specialized equipment, the heart can be induced to go into the bad rhythm, and then brought back to normal. The "bad spot" that causes this problem is then identified, and a wire tip positioned at this exact spot. NOW the ablation can be done. Carefully controlled electricity, and sometimes supercold nitrogen, are passed through the tip of the wire and the bad spot destroyed. The area affected is so small that the heart isn't damaged. After some testing, all the wires are then removed, and the patient awakened. Amazingly, most people don't even spend the night in the hospital. Depending on the problem, the procedure can be successful in over 90% of patients who undergo it (but remember: the procedure is only appropriate for select patients).
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American Heart Association answered
Cardiac ablation is a way to fix an arrhythmia (abnormal heartbeat) and get your heart to beat the right way.
- Your doctor numbs a spot on your groin or arm and inserts thin tubes, or
catheters, into veins.
- One or more catheters are put in one or more veins.
- On the end of the catheter is a tip that will transmit painless energy.
- This will cause the heart muscle cells in a very small area (about 1/5 of an inch) to die.
- When the cells die, the abnormal rhythm will stop, so your heart can return to a normal rhythm.