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Cardiac Ablation

What to expect the day of the procedure

At the hospital

You’ll be admitted to the hospital on the day of your procedure. A nurse will start an intravenous (IV) in your arm and shave your groin right before your procedure.

You’ll go to the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab to have the procedure. This room has many monitors and pieces of equipment. This equipment helps the doctors guide the catheters into your heart and see inside your heart during the procedure. It also helps them find the circuit in your heart that is causing problems.

Medicines for the procedure

You’ll get medicine through your IV to help you relax during the procedure. This is called conscious sedation. This medicine will also make you sleepy and help control any pain. You’ll be able to answer questions and tell the staff how you’re feeling during the procedure.

In some cases, you may get a general anesthetic to put you to sleep. If you’re having a general anesthetic, you’ll meet with an anesthesiologist (doctor who gives anesthesia) before your procedure to go over the plan.

Getting ready for the procedure

You will get sticky patches on your back and chest to monitor your heart rhythm. These patches also help the doctor to find the circuit that is causing problems inside your heart.

You will get a needle to freeze the skin of your groin. This is called a local anesthetic and is like the anesthetic a dentist uses to freeze your mouth.

A nurse will be in the EP Lab with you the whole time. Let the doctor or nurse if you have any pain or concerns during the procedure.

During the procedure

The doctor will put 1 or more catheters into the veins in your groin and guide them into your heart. The catheters record electrical activity from inside your heart. If you have an extra electrical circuit in your heart, this information helps your doctor find it. The doctor can also control the rate of your heart beat using the catheters. There is an x-ray machine in the room that the doctor can use to guide the catheters inside the heart during the procedure. The doctor may also use a 3-dimensional (3D) mapping system to make a model of your heart to help guide the catheters.

If the doctor finds an extra electrical circuit in your heart, they will make sure it’s in a safe place to do the ablation part of the procedure. The doctor will use an ablation catheter to apply heat (radiofrequency ablation) or freezing (cryoablation) to the tissue. The area that’s burned or frozen (ablated) is very small, so the doctor may need to do burn or freeze the tissue a few times to ablate (destroy) the circuit.

If you have a permanent pacemaker or an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD), it will be checked and monitored during the procedure.

Current as of: September 20, 2019

Author: Cardiovascular Health and Stroke Strategic Clinical Network, AHS