Electrophysiology Study and Catheter Ablation: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

Catheter ablation

You had an electrophysiology study for a problem with your heartbeat. You may also have had a catheter ablation to try to correct the problem. You may have swelling, bruising, or a small lump around the site where the catheters went into your body. These should go away in 3 to 4 weeks.

Do not exercise hard or lift anything heavy for a week. You may be able to go back to work and to your normal routine in 1 or 2 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

  • For 1 week, do not lift anything that would make you strain. This may include heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, a vacuum cleaner, or a child.
  • For 1 week, do not exercise hard or do any activity that could strain your blood vessels or the site where the catheters went into your body.
  • Ask your doctor when it is okay to have sex.
  • You may shower 24 to 48 hours after the procedure, if your doctor okays it. Pat the incision dry. Do not take a bath for 1 week, or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

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. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain. Do not take aspirin for 3 days, unless your doctor says it is okay.
  • Check with your doctor before you take aspirin or anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce pain and swelling. These include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).
  • Make sure you know which heart medicines to continue and which ones to stop. Ask your doctor if you are not sure.
  • If you get medicines to keep blood clots from forming (blood thinners), take them exactly as directed.

Catheter site care

  • You can remove your bandages the day after the procedure.

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 call line 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 severe trouble breathing.
  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You have a lot of bleeding from your catheter site.

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

  • You have a fever over 38°C.
  • You are bleeding from one of the areas where a catheter was put in.
  • You have a fast-growing, painful limp at the catheter site.
  • You have painful swelling, or bruising larger than a credit card where a catheter was put in.
  • 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 arm or leg is numb or hurts.
  • Your feet are very cold.
  • Your heart rhythm problem comes back.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You have questions about the results of your procedure or your treatment plan.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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