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What is an Ablation Procedure? Signs You Might Need One

Nov 30, 2021Arterial Disease, Radiofrequency Ablation, Vascular Disease

Did you know that by the year 2030, it is believed that more than 12 million people in the United States alone will suffer from atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation and other forms of irregular heartbeats are more common than you might think, and they can often be fatal.

If you suffer from atrial fibrillation, you may be wondering if there’s anything that can treat this condition. In fact, an ablation procedure may be the ideal treatment option. If you haven’t heard of this treatment before, you may be wondering: what is an ablation procedure? 

You’ve clicked on the right article to have your questions answered. Here, we’ll explore what cardiac ablation is, the heart ablation procedure, and how an ablation procedure might be able to help certain types of cardiac arrhythmia. First, we’ll look at what you should expect from an ablation procedure and what it is exactly. 

What Is an Ablation Procedure?

Heart ablation is a procedure that involves creating scars on your heart tissue. While this may seem counterintuitive when it comes to your heart’s health, this procedure can come with many benefits. This scarring is caused by very hot or very cold energy generated by a catheter.

This energy functions to alter the abnormal electrical signals that your heart generates. By altering your heart’s electrical impulses, cardiac ablation can allow your heart to beat as it should. Since an abnormal heartbeat can cause a variety of health concerns and in some cases, can even be fatal, treatment of arrhythmias is very important. 

Cardiac ablation uses a small tool known as a catheter. This catheter is a very thin tube inserted into a major blood vessel in the body and pushed deep into the body until it reaches the heart. This is the usual way cardiac ablation works; however, in some cases, ablation may also occur during heart surgery. 

You may be wondering why anyone would opt for an ablation procedure when they could take heart medication instead. Usually, cardiac ablation is performed only when heart medications don’t work well enough to treat the condition at hand. However, it’s important to remember that ablation is not considered surgery and is minimally invasive. 

Let’s take a closer look at how a catheter ablation procedure works. By knowing this information, you won’t be shocked or uncertain if you decide to get this procedure.

Going Through the Ablation Procedure

During the ablation procedure, you will be closely monitored by medical professionals to ensure that the procedure goes smoothly. The procedure can last anywhere between two to four hours, depending on how it is performed and how serious your condition might be. 

You may request to be unconscious if you are nervous about the procedure. Otherwise, instead of being fully unconscious, the anesthesiologist will give you medication to keep you in a drowsy, semi-conscious state. You may also receive a local anesthetic around your groin since this is where an incision will occur to insert the catheter into a large blood vessel or vessels.

Your doctor may use one or more catheters and insert them into your blood vessels. These catheters are not simple tubes. In fact, they contain electrodes that will use radiofrequency to zap your cardiac muscle cells.

This will alter your heart’s abnormal electrical impulses. The catheters will not affect the entire heart, but only the areas which are causing your arrhythmia. 

The way the ablation works is that when the catheter generates radiofrequency energy, this energy is hot enough to destroy the faulty tissue and nerves of your heart. As mentioned before, some catheters use cold energy instead of hot energy, but the result is the same. You also don’t need to worry much about whether hot or cold energy might be better for you since your doctor will make this decision based on your condition.

You should not feel any pain during the procedure, though you may feel some discomfort. At this point, the procedure is complete and you can begin recovering. 

Recovering from the Ablation Procedure

After your procedure, you should not move for several hours, sometimes up to six hours. This is because moving around can be dangerous and increase your risk of bleeding. During recovery, medical professionals and machines will monitor your heart.

You should be able to go home the same day as your procedure but some may stay at the hospital for a night or two. You may feel some soreness in your chest, but this should disappear within a few days and you will be able to resume your daily activities.

Signs Ablation Is Right for You

A common sign that ablation is right for you is if you have an arrhythmia and your heart medication is not helping. Whether your arrhythmia affects the upper or lower chambers of the heart, you may be a good candidate for ablation. 

Your doctor will ultimately decide whether this procedure is right for you. They can help you make the choice depending on certain factors, such as if you might develop heart disease. Your doctor will also consider what might be causing your arrhythmia and what parts of your heart are affected. 

Knowing this information is important. The vein ablation procedure is meant to target specific parts of your heart. Though ablation can come with several side effects and risks, the benefits of the procedure can often outweigh those risks. 

Understanding the Heart Ablation Procedure

You now know the answer to the question: what is an ablation procedure? You also know what the procedure involves and if you might be a good candidate. 

To learn more, contact us here