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Catheter Ablation: What to Expect at Home

Location of catheter insertion sites on the body, with detail of catheter entering heart.

Your Recovery

You had a catheter ablation to try to correct a problem with your heartbeat (heart rhythm). You may have swelling, bruising, or a small lump around the sites where the catheters went into your body. These should go away in 3 to 4 weeks.

You can do light activities at home. Don't do anything strenuous until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for several days.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • If the doctor gave you a sedative:
    • For 24 hours, don't do anything that requires attention to detail, such as going to work, making important decisions, or signing any legal documents. It takes time for the medicine's effects to completely wear off.
    • For your safety, do not drive or operate any machinery that could be dangerous. Wait until the medicine wears off and you can think clearly and react easily.
  • Do not do strenuous exercise and do not lift, pull, or push anything heavy until your doctor says it is okay. This may be for several days.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay to have sex.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Drink plenty of fluids (unless your doctor tells you not to).

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. You will also get instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you stopped taking aspirin or some other blood thinner, your doctor will tell you when to start taking it again.
  • Be safe with medicines. Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse advice line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.

Catheter site care

  • For 1 or 2 days, keep a bandage over the spot where the catheter was inserted. The bandage probably will fall off in this time.
  • Put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time to help with soreness or swelling. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry.
  • Do not soak the catheter site until it is healed. Don't take a bath for 1 week, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Watch for bleeding from the site. A small amount of blood (up to the size of a quarter) on the bandage can be normal.
  • If you are bleeding, lie down and press on the area for 15 minutes to try to make it stop. If the bleeding does not stop, call your doctor, nurse advice line, or seek immediate medical care.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have symptoms of a heart attack. These may include:
    • Chest pain or pressure, or a strange feeling in the chest.
    • Sweating.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Nausea or vomiting.
    • Pain, pressure, or a strange feeling in the back, neck, jaw, or upper belly, or in one or both shoulders or arms.
    • Light-headedness or sudden weakness.
    • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
    After you call 911, the operator may tell you to chew 1 adult-strength or 2 to 4 low-dose aspirin. Wait for an ambulance. Do not try to drive yourself.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke. These may include:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.
    • A sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You are bleeding from the area where the catheter was put in your blood vessel.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful lump at the catheter site.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the catheter site.
    • Pus draining from the catheter site.
    • A fever.
  • Your leg, arm, or hand is painful, looks blue, or feels cold, numb, or tingly.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.