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Updated on January 6, 2021

Cardiac Arrhythmia Ablation Treatment

Cardiac Arrhythmia Ablation

What is a Cardiac Arrhythmia?

There are some people who experience abnormal heart rhythms. The heart rate may be too fast or frequently irregular. When the heart rate is not beating normally, it is called an arrhythmia. When an arrhythmia occurs, some people are unaware of their condition because the symptoms are imprecise. In severe cases, it can actually cause a stroke or even sudden death. Previously, the only way to treat arrhythmia was by prescribing drugs. Most of the times these drugs do not work and must be closely monitored. Plus, the drugs have adverse effects and often interact with other medications.

For the past few decades, patients with arrhythmia have opted for radio frequency ablations. It is a small probe with heat energy used to destroy the abnormal electrical circuits that produce these arrhythmias.

Which Types of Arrhythmia can be treated with Ablation?

  • Supraventricular Tachycardias (SVT) including Wolff Parkinson White syndrome (WPW)
  • Atrial Tachycardia
  • Atrial Flutter (AFL)
  • Atrial Fibrillation (AF)
  • Ventricular Tachycardia (VT)
  • Ventricular Premature Beats

How is Arrhythmia Ablation done?

  • Arrhythmia ablation is a process where the patient has to stay at least 2 nights for pre and post procedure. This procedure involves a very small catheter that is inserted into the blood vessel through the groin. This catheter is guided all the way to the heart.
  • Then, the doctor will stimulate the heart to determine the location of these arrhythmias and use the radiofrequency probe to destroy the abnormal electrical pathways.
  • The ablation procedure is relatively painless but you may feel a very distinct heart beat every time it is stimulated. However, this sensation will rapidly disappear. The process usually takes 1 to 2 hours and patients will be conscious throughout the course.
  • Once the procedure is complete, the patient will be observed in the hospital overnight. If the procedure is successful, long- term follow-up is not needed.

Who should NOT undergo Arrhythmia Ablation

  • Patients with a blood clot in their heart chamber
  • Pregnant women

What happens During Catheter Ablation

  • Ablation for complex arrhythmia is done by a trained cardiologist
  • Patients will have an intravenous access inserted to be used to administer medications for pain
  • Next, the groin will be disinfected
  • The doctor will insert a needle into the vein and thread a tube all the way to the heart
  • X-rays will be used to guide the catheters to the heart
  • The doctor will then pass thin long wires (electrodes) to determine the location of the abnormal electrical pathways
  • Once they are identified, a radio frequency probe will be used to generate heat and destroy these abnormal areas
  • Each time the probe is switched on, patients may feel some pressure sensation for a few seconds.  This procedure usually takes 1-2 hours

What happens After Catheter Ablation for Complex Arrhythmia?

After the procedure is completed, patients will be taken to a recovery room and be monitored for a few hours. They will have to remain flat for 6 hours. Once the patients are stable, they may be admitted for an overnight observation or discharged home.

Click to listen to BFM podcast of Datuk Dr Razali Omar on Heart Beat & Rhythm
https://www.bfm.my/podcast/the-bigger-picture/health-and-living/heart-rhythm-and-beats

What is the Success Rate?

In general, the success rate depends on the type of arrhythmia and how long the arrhythmia has been present. Cardiac ablation can restore normal heart rhythm in over 98 to 99% of patients.  Radiofrequency ablation is more effective than drug therapy for atrial fibrillation in young healthy patients.  In less than 1% of cases, sometimes a patient may require a pacemaker.

What are risks of Arrhythmia Ablation?

  • Bleeding around the heart (tamponade)
  • Bleeding at the site where the catheter was introduced
  • Bruising
  • Spasm of the coronary vessel
  • Formation of blood clots
  • Stroke

What can I do at home after the procedure?

  • Most people can return to their normal daily activities within 24 hours.  However, you should not drink or drive within the first 24-48 hours.
  • Avoid all physical activities for 5-7 days
  • There may be a small but obvious bruise at the site of the needle entry.  This will disappear within 4-6 weeks.
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If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

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