- Success Rates
Recovery from heart ablation surgery typically takes about 1 week. Discomfort or soreness in the area where the catheter was inserted is normal, and you should be able to resume normal activities within a few days. However, you should avoid lifting heavy objects or strenuous workouts for at least 1-2 weeks.
Remember to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding your medications, activities, and follow-up visits. If you experience unusual pain or swelling, excessive bleeding at the incision, or consistent heart irregularities, contact your doctor immediately.
When is heart ablation surgery needed?
Cardiac ablation is done to correct arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythms. The procedure involves inserting catheters in the veins or arteries that reach your heart to deliver heat or freezing energy to destroy the abnormal electrical signals and restore regular heartbeat.
Cardiac ablation is usually recommended when medications have failed to correct arrhythmia. Other reasons the procedure may be required include:
- Serious side effects from medications to treat arrhythmias
- High risk of complications such as a sudden cardiac arrest
- Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
- Supraventricular tachycardia
- Atrial fibrillation
Cardiac ablation done for atrial fibrillation helps control symptoms such as shortness of breath and heart palpitations. The procedure is helpful when atrial fibrillation is not caused by any structural issues in the heart. It is more likely to work if atrial fibrillation onset is recent, particularly less than 7 days.
What to expect before cardiac ablation surgery
Your doctor will advise you to undergo the following tests before planning cardiac ablation surgery:
- Blood tests
- Stress tests
- Coronary angiography
- Cardiac computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging
You will be admitted at least a day before the cardiac ablation surgery and asked to avoid drinking and eating 9-12 hours before the procedure.
You will be informed about which medications you can take with a few sips of water and which ones you need to avoid.
On the day of the surgery, you will be given a sedative that makes you relax and stay either partially or fully asleep. This will make the procedure less painful. The amount of sedative administered depends on the type of arrhythmia you have.
How is cardiac ablation surgery performed?
Cardiac ablation surgery takes between 2-4 hours to perform. The procedure is done in an electrophysiology lab:
- Anesthesia is injected into an area in your groin or neck and a small incision made.
- 3-4 catheters are inserted through the blood vessels to your heart, helping your surgeons visualize the inside of the heart area that needs to be worked on.
- Electrodes attached to the ends of the catheters generate electrical signals in your heart and help locate the area that is causing the abnormal heart rhythm.
- Your surgeon will use one of two methods to destroy the problematic area, namely, heat energy using mild radiofrequency or cold energy using freezing temperatures.
- Once the tissue is destroyed, the catheters and wires will be removed.
- Scar tissue that forms will block the transmission of abnormal signals in the heart.
You may or may not feel pain or mild discomfort in your chest during the procedure.
What to expect after cardiac ablation surgery
You will be monitored for 2-6 hours after the procedure to check bleeding and vitals, including heart rate and blood pressure.
Most people go home the same day of the procedure. Others may need to stay in the hospital for 1-2 days, depending on their overall health status.
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What are complications of heart ablation surgery?
Complications are rarely seen with catheter ablation. However, if they occur, they may include:
- Bleeding or infection at the surgery site
- Damage to blood vessels
- Injury to heart valves
- Worsening of existing problems
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Venous thromboembolism (blood clots in your legs or lungs)
- Heart attack
- Pulmonary vein stenosis (narrowing of the veins that connect your heart to your lungs)
- Kidney damage
- Radiation exposure
Very rarely, the surgery may lead to death, although the chances of dying from cardiac ablation surgery are extremely low.
How successful is heart ablation surgery?
Depending on the type of arrhythmia, success rates of cardiac ablation surgery for arrhythmia can be as high as 90%.
After cardiac ablation surgery for atrial fibrillation:
- 40% of people have no recurrences of arrhythmia for at least 1 year.
- 37% of people have no recurrences of arrhythmia for at least 2 years.
- 29% of people have no recurrences of arrhythmia for at least 5 years.
Most people experience symptom relief and improved quality of life after surgery. If arrhythmia recurs, surgery may need to be repeated or other treatment options may be considered. Repeat procedures have a long-term success rate of 63%.
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Ablation Therapy for ArrhythmiasThis procedure is used to treat abnormal heart rhythms. Depending on the type of arrhythmia and the presence of other heart disease, a nonsurgical ablation or a surgical ablation, may be performed. During a catheter ablation, catheters are advanced to the heart via blood vessels in the groin, neck, and arm. The conduction system of the heart is mapped and any areas responsible for the arrhythmia are destroyed.
ArrhythmiaAn arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm. With an arrhythmia, the heartbeats may be irregular or too slow (bradycardia), to rapid (tachycardia), or too early. When a single heartbeat occurs earlier than normal, it is called a premature contraction.
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is an abnormality in the heart rhythm, which involves irregular and often rapid beating of the heart. Symptoms may include heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Atrial fibrillation treatment may include medication or procedures like cardioversion or ablation to normalize the heart rate.
Atrial Fibrillation QuizLearn the causes, symptoms, and treatments of the common heart abnormality known as atrial fibrillation (A-fib).
Living With A-FibAFib symptoms like heart racing, fluttering, and irregular heart beat may be caused by heart disease, obesity, alcohol use, thyroid disease, and other conditions. AFib medications may include blood thinners, drugs to control heart rate or convert the heart to a normal rhythm. AFib surgery is also a treatment possibility.
Can Atrial Fibrillation Go Away?Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart beats irregularly and rapidly. Rarely, atrial fibrillation can go away on its own. Atrial fibrillation may be brief, with symptoms that come and go. It is possible to have an atrial fibrillation episode that resolves on its own or the condition may be persistent and require treatment.
Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disorders)Heart rhythm disorders vary from minor palpitations, premature atrial contractions (PACs), premature ventricular contractions (PVCs), sinus tachycardia, and sinus bradycardia, to abnormal heart rhythms such as tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, ventricular flutter, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome, brachycardia, or heart blocks. Treatment is dependent upon the type of heart rhythm disorder.
How Serious Is a Heart Ablation Surgery?Heart ablation or cardiac ablation is a procedure done to rectify problems with heart rhythm (arrhythmias). It is a low-risk procedure that involves scarring or destroying the tissue in the heart, which triggers an abnormal heart rhythm.
Living with Atrial FibrillationLearn how to live easier with atrial fibrillation. What is AFib? Find out the symptoms and causes of this heart condition. Explore tips that can help you manage an irregular heartbeat, including medication, diet, nutrition, exercise, and ways to reduce stress.
Is It Normal to Have Irregular Heartbeat After Ablation?Cardiac (heart) ablation is a procedure performed to correct heart arrhythmias (irregular heart rhythm/beat). Cardiac ablation works by intentionally injuring or destroying (ablating) and scarring the tissue in the heart that triggers the abnormal heart rhythm.
What Happens If Arrhythmia Is Left Untreated?Untreated arrhythmia in some individuals may increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, dementia, and heart failure. It may lead to the inadequate blood supply to multiple organs because the heart may not function properly.
What Is a Catheter Ablation Procedure?Catheter ablation or cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to treat abnormal heart rhythms. During this procedure, the doctor may destroy tiny areas in the heart that are firing off abnormal electrical impulses and causing abnormal heart rhythms.
What Is the Ablation Procedure?An ablation procedure is a minimally invasive procedure. It is used to destroy layers of abnormal tissues in various parts of the body using lasers or cold. Ablation can be done for cosmetic reasons (on the skin for brightening, wart removal and tattoo removal) or treating serious disorders (heart ablation to treat abnormal rhythm or uterine ablation for fibroids).
What Is the Best Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation?Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a type of heart disorder that can cause an abnormally high heart rate. The best type of treatment that is recommended for a patient is based on their symptoms. Treatment options of AFib include lifestyle changes, medications, and procedures such as cardioversion or ablation.