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Cardiac Ablation

Cardiac ablation: What is it and how is it done?

​What is cardiac ablation?

Cardiac ablation treats heart conditions that cause very fast heart beats (called tachycardia). The procedure uses catheters that heat or freeze tissue to destroy a small part of the heart instead of surgery.

People with tachycardia may have as an extra electrical circuit (pathway) that causes the heart to beat too fast. Cardiac ablation helps relieve symptoms related to tachycardia, such as the heart beating too hard, too fast, or skipping beats (called palpitations), dizziness, chest discomfort and fainting (this is a rare symptom of tachycardia).

Cardiac ablation is done by a doctor called an electrophysiologist, a type of heart doctor (cardiologist) that treats abnormal heart rhythms.

How is cardiac ablation done?

Cardiac ablation is done by radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation.

  • Radiofrequency ablation uses a catheter to heat and destroy the tissue.
  • Cryoablation uses a catheter to freeze and destroy the tissue.

The procedure is done by putting catheters into blood vessels in the leg or groin and gently guiding them up to the heart. The cardiologist guides the catheter through the wall between the right and left atria (upper chambers of the heart). This is called a transeptal puncture. If a patient already has a natural opening between the right and left atria (called a patent foramen ovale or PFO), it can be used to pass the catheters from the right to the left side.

Sometimes x-ray is used to guide the catheters.

Anatomy of the Heart

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Current as of: September 20, 2019

Author: Cardiovascular Health and Stroke Strategic Clinical Network, AHS