Catheter ablations are done by a specialist cardiology elctrophysiologist, to cure irregular/abnormal heartbeats, better known as arrhythmias.
The procedure is less invasive than surgery and is used to treat/cure Atrial Fibrillation (AF)/Atrial Flutter, as well as a number of other arrythmias such as Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) or Supraventricular Tachycardias (SVT’s) and Atrioventricular Nodal Re-entrant Tachycardias (AVNRT) such as Wolf Parkinson White. Other indications for catheter ablation include:
- Symptomatic drug-refractory idiopathic sinus tachycardia ie an abnormally fast heart rate that doesn’t respond to medications
- Lifestyle-impairing ectopic beats (please see Ectopic Beats section)
An ablation normally follows an Electrophysiology Study (EP Study) and both are often done at the same time. An ablation is commonly performed under local anaesthetic with the patient awake but a sedative can be given. You are required to lie flat on your back, sometimes for up to several hours. The physician will pass flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels in the groin or around the neck. These are threaded up to the heart under direct vision using an X-ray camera. During the course of treatment, the emphasis is to destroy those areas of heart that are producing the abnormal electrical signals causing the arrythmias.
Small punctures are made in the groin, neck or arm area, under local anaesthetic, to insert catheters that are threaded to heart.
The procedure is normally straight forward but as with ay invasive procedure, it carries risks. Risks quoted are between 1-3%. The most common complications as minor bleeding & bruising when the sheaths (plastic tubes) are removed from the veins at the end of the procedure.
Other extremely rare complications are:
Puncture of the heart.
Need for emergency heart surgery
Pericarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart)
Cardiac tamponade (build up of fluid around the heart)
Atrio-esophageal fistula. In this life-threatening condition, a hole forms between the heart’s upper chamber and the oesophagus.
New heart rhythm problems.
Death (very rare).
You can learn more about the types of medical investigations and treatments that are available from Private Cardiologist Dr Aftab Gill by contacting him.