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About Catheter Ablation

Catheter ablation is a relatively non-invasive procedure which uses a form of energy to render a small section of problem causing tissue inactive, putting an end to abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias. This procedure is performed by a team of highly skilled nurses and scientists that work alongside our electrophysiologist cardiologists. 

For many types of arrhythmias, catheter ablation is successful in 90 - 98% of cases.

Pre-operative Preparation

You will be required to fast for 6 hours prior to the procedure. You will also be required to take a blood thinning medication for a few weeks prior to the procedure. Your cardiologist will advise you on which medication you should cease prior to the procedure, but generally you will stop taking any arrhythmic medications a few days prior. You may also be required to have a CT Coronary Angiography (CTCA) scan just before the procedure.

Procedure

Like many cardiac procedures, ablation no longer requires a full frontal chest opening (sternotomy). Rather, a small incision is made in the groin or neck area and thin, and flexible wires (catheters) are passed through the vein and advanced to the heart under X-ray guidance. Special equipment that creates 3D images of heart chambers is often used in these procedures.

Once the catheters reach the heart, electrodes at the tips of the catheters gather data which detects electrical signals from different parts of the heart. This data pinpoints the location of the tissue causing the arrhythmia. Once the source of the arrhythmia is confirmed, energy is used to destroy, or ablate, that tissue, putting an end to the disturbance of electrical flow through the heart and restoring a normal heart rhythm. This energy may be intense cold, which freezes, or cryoablates, the tissue, or radiofrequency energy, which burns the tissue.

The procedure is not painful, though some patients have reported feeling a slight discomfort.

Post-operative Care

You will be required to lie flat for 6 hours after the procedure to prevent any potential bleeding from the incision site in your groin. It is normal to have some bruising and discomfort around the incision site, and you may also experience some minor chest discomfort. You will stay in hospital overnight for monitoring, and will generally be discharged the following day or two.
You will be advised to avoid any strenuous activities and exercise in the few days following your procedure. Most people resume their normal activities after the first week.
You will remain on blood thinning medication for 3 months after your procedure, and sometimes longer, and you will also continue to take any arrhythmic medications as advised.
Episodes of Atrial Fibrillation, as well as palpitations, are a common occurrence following your procedure, but usually subside within 3 months.