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What Is Catheter Ablation?

What Is Catheter Ablation?

Catheter ablation (ab-LA-shun) is a medical procedure used to treat some arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs). An arrhythmia is a problem with the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat.

During catheter ablation, a long, thin, flexible tube is put into a blood vessel in your arm, groin (upper thigh), or neck. This tube is called an ablation catheter. It’s then guided to your heart through the blood vessel. A special machine sends energy through the catheter to your heart. This energy finds and destroys small areas of heart tissue where abnormal heartbeats may cause an arrhythmia to start.

Overview

The heart’s electrical system controls the speed and rhythm of your heartbeat. With each heartbeat, an electrical signal spreads from the top of the heart to the bottom. As it travels, the electrical signal causes the heart to contract and pump blood.

The process repeats with each new heartbeat. A problem with any part of this process can cause an arrhythmia. (For more information about the heart's electrical system, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index article on How the Heart Works.)

Catheter ablation is one of several treatments for arrhythmia. Your doctor may recommend it if:

  • The medicines you take don’t control your arrhythmia.
  • You can’t tolerate the medicines your doctor has prescribed for your arrhythmia.
  • You have certain types of arrhythmia, such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

Though few, catheter ablation has risks. These include bleeding, infection, and pain where the catheter is inserted. More serious problems include blood clots and puncture of the heart. Your doctor will explain the risks to you.

Cardiologists (doctors who specialize in treating people with heart problems) sometimes perform ablation through open-heart surgery. But this method isn’t as common as catheter ablation, which doesn’t require surgery to open the chest cavity.

Outlook

Catheter ablation alone doesn’t always restore a normal heart rate and rhythm. Other treatments may need to be used as well. Also, some people who have the procedure may need to have it done again. This can happen when the first procedure doesn’t fully correct the problem.

Author/Source: National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH]

 

Retrieved: November 2007

 

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Start Date
Jun 16, 2008
by jen_from_NY
Last Revision
Jun 16, 2008
by jen_from_NY