Patients & Family
What is Catheter ablation?
Catheter ablation is a specialised procedure used to treat AFib. It is usually performed by a heart specialist called an electrophysiologist
Catheter ablation is becoming increasingly used to treat AFib as it is an effective method of treating AFib and does not require any major heart surgery, meaning that patients can return to their normal lives quickly after the procedure.
The procedure is performed by guiding special wires and instruments called catheters through the circulatory system to the heart. The areas of the heart that cause the abnormal electrical signals are then neutralised with a special type of energy sources.
The ablation procedure
The procedure usually takes place in a hospital in a specialised cardiology centre, which is usually part of a hospital. Admission and discharge policies vary from country to country and hospital to hospital, and you could very well be admitted the day before your procedure and be discharged the day after.
On the morning of the procedure, you will be prepared by the hospital staff. The area where the catheter will be inserted will be prepared (either your groin or your neck) and you will be given a mild sedative to relax you. You may be given a general anaesthetic.
You will then be moved to the electrophysiology lab where the procedure will be performed. The catheters will be inserted into the prepared area. The catheters will be guided into your heart and the dysfunctional areas that are causing the AFib will be neutralised using an energy source.
You may feel some pressure when the catheter is inserted into your neck or groin, and some patients may feel some temporary chest discomfort during the procedure. The doctor may give you a medication to relieve the discomfort if required.
After the procedure, the catheters will be removed and a bandage applied to the groin or neck to prevent bleeding. Usually, you will remain in bed for a few hours or until the next day for observation, and then you will be able to go home.
After the procedure
When you get home, you will need to limit your activities for a few days to avoid strenuous activity. You should be able to return to work within a few days of the procedure as long as your work does not involve strenuous activity.
Your doctor may advise you not to drive a car for a short period after the procedure. Your doctor will also advise you about any necessary check-up visits you will need to make.
Patients recommended for catheter ablation
Most patients recommended for catheter ablation are those in whom medications used for treating the AFib are not working as well as expected (Fuster V, et al, 2006).
Your doctor has decided that catheter ablation will be the best treatment for you because it can be a highly effective way to reduce the frequency of the AFib episodes and the symptoms that you are experiencing. Sometimes, catheter ablation can lead to a return to normal sinus rhythm.
Benefits and risks of catheter ablation
Catheter ablation is an increasingly used technique for treating AFib (Cappato R, et al. 2005). Most people who undergo the procedure generally achieve a reduction in the number and/or the severity of the AFib episodes for a long time afterwards. In some cases, medications used for treating the AFib can be reduced or stopped following the procedure.
Catheter ablation can be considered relatively safe. As with any procedure, the risks associated with catheter ablation of AFib may vary according to individual patient characteristics and the experience of the centre. Your doctor will provide you with information on the specific risks associated with the procedure.