Surgeons use cryoablation, which is cold energy or freezing, to
destroy a small section of damaged heart tissue that is acting as
a source of abnormal electrical activity and causing or
contributing to some types of tachycardia. Tachycardia is a form
of arrhythmia in which rapid heartbeats are caused by damage from
a previous heart attack, and it can lead to sudden cardiac death.
Medication often is an effective treatment option for
patients with arrhythmias. However, if medication is unsuccessful
or causes unfavorable side effects, a minimally invasive procedure
called cryoablation may be the next best approach.
Traditional radiofrequency ablation uses heat to ablate (or
destroy) the area of the heart causing abnormal electrical
impulses, which can cause permanent damage to heart muscle
containing the abnormal circuitry.
In some circumstances, the abnormal heart muscle may be in very
close proximity to healthy heart muscle containing vital
conduction circuitry, which makes traditional radiofrequency
ablation a higher-risk procedure and can lead to a complete heart
blockage, necessitating pacemaker implantation.
An alternative is cryoablation, during which a catheter is
inserted through the groin and guided to the heart to safely
"freeze" areas that are causing the arrhythmia.
In the early phase of cryoablation, the damaged tissue can be
thawed and reversed back to normal if unintended effects to
healthy tissues are noted. This gives physicians a valuable tool
to provide an effective cure for certain cardiac arrhythmias with
a much lower risk of complications.
According to physicians on the Texas Health medical staff, many
patients who undergo cryoablation therapy are back on their feet
just hours after the procedure.