What is cardiac ablation?

A cardiac ablation involves cauterizing a small part of the heart to get rid of an arrhythmia.

This treatment for cardiac arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation involves creating a lesion in the heart area that fires abnormal electrical impulses. This eliminates the cause of the arrhythmia, allowing the heart to pump blood more effectively.

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 IVs 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 X-rays 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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With cardiac ablation, a catheter is placed next to the heart cells that are creating abnormal electrical signals. A device on the catheter then uses radiofrequency energy or liquid nitrogen to destroy abnormal cells in a small area. This can restore your heart to a normal rhythm. In most cases, an ablation procedure can be completed at the same time as an electrophysiology (EP) study. Your doctor will tell you if you are scheduled for an EP study, an ablation procedure, or potentially both.

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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.