What should I expect after a catheter ablation procedure?

After a cardiac ablation procedure, patients can expect soreness and oozing around the groin area.

A catheter ablation involves threading catheters to the heart, through the vein, and fixing the problem. The puncture side needs to heal after a catheter ablation.

Dr. Atul Bhatia, MD
Cardiac Electrophysiologist

After catheter ablation, all of the catheters are taken out and pressure is applied on the entry area. Generally, you will go home the next day or the day after. You will often have an echocardiogram before you leave to check for any complications. Warfarin and/or aspirin will continue to be given after the procedure. Your doctor will decide when it can be stopped.

Other medications may be continued or new medications may be started after the procedure. In some instances, these medications may be stopped after a few weeks or months. You will be given a heart monitor after the procedure and three, six and 12 months later to assess for any recurrence. This is important information to help determine if you need to continue certain medications.

After the physician removes the catheters, it is necessary to apply pressure to the insertion sites so that bleeding does not occur. You likely will stay in bed with your legs held still for one to six hours to prevent bleeding from these sites. The sites will be covered with a small bandage, which must be kept clean and dry. If you notice any redness, swelling, or drainage in this area, notify a nurse or physician at once. While you are in the recovery area, a telemetry monitor also will record your heart rhythm. Some patients may go home that night; others may stay in the hospital overnight.

During the first 48 hours after this procedure, you may experience chest discomfort or fatigue. If these symptoms are severe or prolonged, notify your physician.

After the procedure, you're moved to a special care unit where you lie still for 4 to 6 hours of recovery. Lying still prevents bleeding at the site where the catheter was inserted.

While you're in the special care unit, you're connected to special devices that measure your heart's electrical activity and blood pressure. The nurses check these monitors continuously. Nurses also check to make sure that there's no bleeding at the catheter insertion site.

Your doctor determines whether you need to stay overnight in the hospital. Some people go home the same day. Others need to stay overnight for 1 or more days. Before you go home, your doctor will tell you:

  • Which medicines you need to take
  • How much physical activity you can do
  • How to care for the area where the catheter was inserted
  • When to see the doctor again

Driving after the procedure may not be safe. Your doctor will let you know if you need to arrange for someone to drive you home.

Recovery and Recuperation: Recovery from catheter ablation is usually quick. You may feel stiff and achy from lying still for 4 to 6 hours after the procedure. In addition, a small bruise may form at the site where the ablation catheter was inserted. The area may feel sore or tender for about a week. Most people are able to return to normal activity in a few days.

Talk to your doctor about signs and symptoms to watch for. Let your doctor know if you have problems such as:

  • A constant or large amount of bleeding at the catheter insertion site that you can't stop with a small bandage
  • Unusual pain, swelling, redness, or other signs of infection at or near the catheter insertion site
  • Strong, rapid, or other irregular heartbeats
  • Fainting

This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

Dr. Mohamed Djelmami Hani, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

After your catheter ablation procedure, the catheters will be removed and firm pressure applied to the sites until the bleeding has stopped. A dressing will be applied to the site.

You will be taken to a recovery room or the nursing unit. Your heart rate, blood pressure, respirations and catheter sites will be checked often. You will be on bed rest for four to eight hours, depending on your doctor's orders. You may eat and drink when you are fully awake.

Please let your nurse know if you notice any bleeding, have any pain at the sites, and if you feel your heart beating rapidly. To help prevent bleeding, keep your legs straight and try not to bend them.

Your doctors will discuss the results and follow-up needs with you. The doctor and nurse will give you home care instructions. You may go home the same day or you may stay overnight.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.