Have you been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, otherwise known as a heart arrhythmia? The most common heart rhythm disorder is atrial fibrillation, or AFib. If so, your doctor may have recommended a safe and minimally invasive procedure known as a catheter ablation.

There are many benefits to choosing this procedure, especially when medications haven’t worked. Catheter ablation is known for high success rates and low risk of symptom recurrence. But, you may be nervous to undergo a procedure. Learn more about what to expect before, during and after your cardiac ablation.

What is a Catheter Ablation?

When you’re diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, it’s important to start treatment as soon as possible. Without treatment, your risk of heart failure or stroke can increase exponentially. A catheter ablation alleviates this risk by utilizing a non-surgical and technologically advanced method to safely block abnormal signals that cause your irregular heartbeat.

An electrophysiologist, or EP doctor, uses a 3D heart mapping system to view your heart in real time.  The EP uses a catheter to locate the source of any abnormal electrical signals. Then, they create a small scar that will intercept any of those unusual signals.

The result is a low risk of complications and short recovery time.

How to Prepare for a Cardiac Ablation

As a non-surgical and minimally invasive procedure, a cardiac ablation does not require much advanced preparation. Patients are required to fast 6 to 8 hours beforehand. It’s important to note that doctors should direct you to stop taking any other medications prior to the procedure.

Once the procedure begins, the catheter is placed underneath a clean surface of your skin. You may feel a slight pressure, but overall, you can expect minimum discomfort.

What to Expect During the Procedure

You can expect the procedure to last anywhere from two to four hours, depending on the severity of your arrhythmia. The procedure starts with your doctor administering a mild sedative which will induce general anesthesia and put you to sleep.

Next, you will be given medication to increase your heart rate. Thin, flexible wires are inserted through an artery or vein and guided to the heart. Your doctor may also use electrical stimulation to cause the abnormal heart rhythm. When your irregular heartbeat begins, your doctor will be able to identify the areas of the heart producing the arrhythmia.

At this point, your EP doctor will move another catheter to the site. That catheter delivers bursts of high-energy waves that ablate, or destroy, the abnormal areas. After ablating the problem site, the doctor will then attempt to restart the arrhythmia. If the abnormal rhythm cannot be induced, then the procedure was a success.

Post-Cardiac Ablation Procedure Recovery

Overall, this is a safe and effective procedure with minimal recovery time.

Immediately following the procedure, the catheters are removed and pressure is applied to the incision site to prevent bleeding. A bandage may be applied if needed.

Most patients must stay in bed for a few hours following procedure or overnight if recommended. However, patients are usually able to resume regular activities within a few days or the day after the procedure.

Patients should not worry if they notice a small lump or bruise on or near the incision site. This is normal and no cause of concern. However, if it becomes inflamed, warm or tender, please consult your doctor.

Contact Heart Rhythm Consultants for Your Catheter Ablation Procedure

If a catheter ablation has been recommended as the right treatment option for your arrhythmia, schedule an appointment with the cardiac electrophysiologists at Heart Rhythm Consultants. Our team of experts will guide you through the preparation, procedural, and recovery process every step of the way.

About Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A.

The experienced electrophysiologists of Heart Rhythm Consultants, P.A. have been serving West Florida including Sarasota, Venice, Tampa, Port Charlotte, and Sun City Center for over 15 years. Our specialty cardiologists, or EP doctors, help patients manage their abnormal heart rhythm conditions, whether they suffer from arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation (AFib), or other irregular heartbeats.

Dr. Dilip J. Mathew, Dr. Antonio Moretta, and Dr. Rajesh Malik perform arrhythmia treatments like cardiac ablation, cryoablation, and implanting pacemakers or defibrillators. Dr. Mathew has performed nearly 5,000 complex cardiac ablations. View our office locations in Sarasota, Port Charlotte, and Venice, Florida.