Learn About Cardiac Ablation

What is the definition of Cardiac Ablation?

Cardiac ablation is a procedure that is used to scar small areas in your heart that may be involved in your heart rhythm problems. This can prevent the abnormal electrical signals or rhythms from moving through the heart.

During the procedure, small wires called electrodes are placed inside your heart to measure your heart's electrical activity. When the source of the problem is found, the tissue causing the problem is destroyed.

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What are the alternative names for Cardiac Ablation?

Catheter ablation; Radiofrequency catheter ablation; Cryoablation - cardiac ablation; AV nodal reentrant tachycardia - cardiac ablation; AVNRT - cardiac ablation; Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome - cardiac ablation; Atrial fibrillation - cardiac ablation; Atrial flutter - cardiac ablation; Ventricular tachycardia - cardiac ablation; VT - cardiac ablation; Arrhythmia - cardiac ablation; Abnormal heart rhythm - cardiac ablation

What happens during a Cardiac Ablation?

There are two methods for performing cardiac ablation:

  • Radiofrequency ablation uses heat energy to eliminate the problem area.
  • Cryoablation uses very cold temperatures.

The type of procedure you have will depend on what kind of abnormal heart rhythm you have.

Cardiac ablation procedures are done in a hospital laboratory by trained staff. This includes cardiologists (heart doctors), technicians, and nurses. The setting is safe and controlled so your risk is as low as possible.

You will be given medicine (a sedative) before the procedure to help you relax.

  • The skin on your neck, arm, or groin will be cleaned well and made numb with an anesthetic.
  • Next, the doctor will make a small cut in the skin.
  • A small, flexible tube (catheter) will be inserted through this cut into one of the blood vessels in the area. The doctor will use live x-ray images to carefully guide the catheter up into your heart.
  • Sometimes more than one catheter is needed.

Once the catheter is in place, your doctor will place small electrodes in different areas of your heart.

  • These electrodes are connected to monitors that allow the cardiologist to tell what area in your heart is causing problems with your heart rhythm. In most cases, there are one or more specific areas.
  • Once the source of the problem has been found, one of the catheter lines is used to send electrical (or sometimes cold) energy to the problem area.
  • This creates a small scar that causes the heart rhythm problem to stop.

Catheter ablation is a long procedure. It can last 4 or more hours. During the procedure your heart will be monitored closely. A health care provider may ask you if you are having symptoms at different times during the procedure. Symptoms you may feel are:

  • A brief burning when medicines are injected
  • A faster or stronger heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Burning when the electrical energy is used
Why would someone need a Cardiac Ablation?

Cardiac ablation is used to treat certain heart rhythm problems that medicines are not controlling. These problems may be dangerous if they are not treated.

Common symptoms of heart rhythm problems may include:

  • Chest pain
  • Fainting
  • Slow or fast heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness
  • Paleness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skipping beats -- changes in the pattern of the pulse
  • Sweating

Some heart rhythm problems are:

  • AV nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT)
  • Accessory pathway, such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Atrial flutter
  • Ventricular tachycardia
What are the risks?

Catheter ablation is generally safe. Talk with your provider about these rare complications:

  • Bleeding or blood pooling where the catheter is inserted
  • Blood clot that goes to arteries in your leg, heart, or brain
  • Damage to the artery where the catheter is inserted
  • Damage to heart valves
  • Damage to the coronary arteries (blood vessels that carry blood to your heart)
  • Esophageal atrial fistula (a connection that forms between your esophagus and part of your heart)
  • Fluid around the heart (cardiac tamponade)
  • Heart attack
  • Vagal or phrenic nerve damage
How to prepare for a Cardiac Ablation

Always tell your provider what drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the days before the procedure:

  • Ask your provider which drugs you should still take on the day of the surgery.
  • Tell your provider if you are taking aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), prasugrel (Effient), ticagrelor (Brilinta), warfarin (Coumadin), or another blood thinner such as apixaban (Eliquis), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), dabigatran (Pradaxa) and edoxaban (Savaysa).
  • If you smoke, stop before the procedure. Ask your provider for help if you need it.
  • Tell your provider if you have a cold, flu, fever, herpes breakout, or other illness.

On the day of the procedure:

  • You will most often be asked not to drink or eat anything after midnight the night before your procedure.
  • Take the drugs your provider has told you to take with a small sip of water.
  • You will be told when to arrive at the hospital.
What to expect after a Cardiac Ablation

Pressure to reduce bleeding is put on the area where the catheters were inserted into your body. You will be kept in bed for at least 1 hour. You may need to stay in bed for up to 5 or 6 hours. Your heart rhythm will be checked during this time.

Your doctor will decide whether you can go home on the same day, or if you will need to stay in the hospital overnight for continued heart monitoring. You will need someone to drive you home after your procedure.

For 2 or 3 days after your procedure, you may have these symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Achy feeling in your chest
  • Skipped heartbeats, or times when your heartbeat is very fast or irregular.

Your doctor may keep you on your medicines, or give you new ones that help control your heart rhythm.

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Cardiac Ablation?

Success rates are different depending on what type of heart rhythm problem is being treated.

Who are the top Cardiac Ablation Local Doctors?
Highly rated in
Cardiac Electrophysiology
Internal Medicine

Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute

Austin, TX 

Andrea Natale is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist and a Cardiologist in Austin, Texas. Dr. Natale has been practicing medicine for over 37 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Cardiac Ablation. She is also highly rated in 30 other conditions, according to our data. Her top areas of expertise are Atrial Fibrillation, Cardiac Ablation, Arrhythmias, and Ventricular Tachycardia. She is board certified in Cardiac Electrophysiology, Cardiovascular Disease (Cardiology), and Internal Medicine and licensed to treat patients in California, Texas, and Ohio. Dr. Natale is currently accepting new patients.

Highly rated in

Montefiore Hospital - Einstein Campus

The Bronx, NY 

Luigi Di Biase is a Cardiologist in The Bronx, New York. Dr. Di Biase has been practicing medicine for over 22 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Cardiac Ablation. He is also highly rated in 23 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Cardiac Ablation, Atrial Fibrillation, Arrhythmias, and Stroke. He is board certified in Cardiovascular Disease (Cardiology) and licensed to treat patients in New York. Dr. Di Biase is currently accepting new patients.

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Highly rated in
Cardiac Electrophysiology

Perelman Center For Advanced Medicine

Philadelphia, PA 

Pasquale Santangeli is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist and a Cardiologist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dr. Santangeli has been practicing medicine for over 16 years and is rated as an Elite doctor by MediFind in the treatment of Cardiac Ablation. He is also highly rated in 26 other conditions, according to our data. His top areas of expertise are Arrhythmias, Ventricular Tachycardia, Cardiac Ablation, and Atrial Fibrillation. He is board certified in Cardiac Electrophysiology and licensed to treat patients in Pennsylvania. Dr. Santangeli is currently accepting new patients.

What are the latest Cardiac Ablation Clinical Trials?
Ripple Mapping Guided Ablation for Atrial Tachycardia: A Randomised Controlled Trial
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Insertable Cardiac Monitor-Guided Early Intervention to Reduce Atrial Fibrillation Burden Following Catheter Ablation (ICM REDUCE-AF)
What are the Latest Advances for Cardiac Ablation?
Effect of catheter ablation on clinical outcomes in patients with atrial fibrillation and significant functional mitral regurgitation.
Impact of substrate-based ablation for ventricular tachycardia in patients with frequent appropriate implantable cardioverter-defibrillator therapy and dilated cardiomyopathy: Long-term experience with high-density mapping.
Tired of the same old research?
Check Latest Advances
Clinical Outcomes of low-voltage area-guided left atrial linear ablation for non-paroxysmal atrial fibrillation patients.
What are our references for Cardiac Ablation?

Calkins H, Hindricks G, Cappato R, et al. 2017 HRS/EHRA/ECAS/APHRS/SOLAECE expert consensus statement on catheter and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation. Heart Rhythm. 2017;14(10):e275-e444. PMID: 28506916 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28506916/.

Ferreira SW, Mehdirad AA. The electrophysiology laboratory and electrophysiologic procedure. In: Sorajja P, Lim MJ, Kern MJ, eds. Kern's Cardiac Catheterization Handbook. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 7.

Miller JM, Tomaselli GF, Zipes DP. Therapy for cardiac arrhythmias. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 36.