To ablate means "to destroy." Cardiac ablation is a procedure for destroying areas in the heart that may be causing heart rhythm problems. During the procedure, small wires called electrodes are placed inside the heart to measure electrical activity. These electrodes can also be used to destroy the bad areas of the heart.

Cardiac ablation is used to treat certain heart rhythm problems that medicines are not controlling.

Cardiac ablation procedures are done in a hospital laboratory by a specially trained staff. The procedure involves making an incision on the neck, arm or groin and inserting a catheter (a small flexible tube) into a blood vessel in the area. Live x-ray images are used to carefully guide the catheter into the heart. Once the catheter is in place, several flexible tubes that contain electrodes are guided through it. These are placed in small blood vessels in the heart. They are connected to monitors that tell what area in the heart muscle is causing problems with heart rhythm.

One of the catheter lines sends electrical energy to the problem area to create a scar. The scarring causes the heart-rhythm problem to stop.

Catheter ablation can last four or more hours. During the procedure, the heart is monitored carefully.

Catheter ablation is generally safe. Talk with your doctor about these rare complications:

  • Fluid around the heart (cardiac tamponade)
  • Damage to heart valves
  • Esophageal atrial fistula (a connection forms between the esophagus and part of the heart)
  • Vagal or phrenic nerve damage
  • Blood clot that goes to arteries in the leg, heart or brain
  • Damage to the coronary arteries (blood vessels that carry blood to the heart)
  • Heart attack
  • Bleeding or blood pooling where the catheter is inserted
  • Damage to the artery where the catheter is inserted

After the Procedure:

The physician will decide whether the patient can go home on the same day or needs to stay in the hospital overnight to continue heart monitoring. For two or three days after the procedure, the patient may feel tired and achy or may notice skipped heartbeats or times when the heartbeat is very fast or irregular.

Texas Health is committed to providing quality care to heart and vascular patients throughout North Texas and beyond. While various technologies and services are discussed here, not all of our hospitals offer every treatment and diagnostic technology highlighted. Call 1-877-THR-WELL to learn more about heart and vascular services at a Texas Health hospital near you.

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