Catheter ablation is a procedure where one or more flexible, thin tubes (catheters) are guided via X-ray into the blood vessels and directed to the heart muscle.
A burst of radiofrequency energy destroys very small areas of tissue that give rise to abnormal electrical signals. It is successful in 90 to 98 percent of cases, eliminating the need for open-heart surgery or long-term drug therapy.
Do I need catheter ablation?
In deciding what course of treatment to take the cardiologist will need to perform a thorough investigation of your presenting condition and it will be necessary to consider the following:
- The nature and the severity of your rhythm disturbance.
- Other underlying disease or co-morbidity
- Family history
- Overall health
It is likely the cardiologist will undertake various tests, most commonly ECG, Echocardiogram, Holter monitoring and frequently a functional Exercise test.
What is involved and what are the risks?
You will be made comfortable with a combination of local anaesthetic and sedation. The procedure involves the insertion of catheters to the heart, most often though a vein in the groin. These catheters are attached to sophisticated equipment which is able to deliver small electrical impulses to determine their ability to halt the arrhythmia and restore normal heart rhythm. An Electrophysiology (EP) Study is often carried out prior to ablation and describes the process by which the cardiologist determines which part of the heart is providing the substrate for the rhythm disturbance.
Complications are similar to most percutaneous treatments: bleeding/bruising at the entry site, blood clots and very rarely, fluid around the heart.