Catheter Ablation is a procedure that corrects irregular heartbeats by destroying small amounts of tissue that cause the abnormal heart rhythm. During this procedure, a catheter is threaded into the heart via a vein in your groin, arm or other locations. The tip of the catheter is guided to the area of heart tissue that is causing the abnormal heart rhythm. The catheter then emits a pulse of painless radiofrequency energy that destroys the abnormal tissue and corrects the irregular heartbeat.
(From: What To Expect During Catheter Ablation. National Institutes of Health)
Normally, electricity flows throughout the heart in a regular, measured pattern. This electrical system is the basis for heart muscle contractions.
Sometimes, an electrical short circuit occurs that disturbs normal heart rhythms. Medicine often helps. In some cases, however, the most effective treatment is to destroy the tissue housing the short circuit. This procedure is called cardiac ablation.
Many people have abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) that cannot be controlled with lifestyle changes or medications. Some patients cannot anti-arrhythmic medications and other drugs because of side effects that interfere with their quality of life.
Most often, cardiac ablation is used to treat rapid heartbeats that begin in the upper chambers, or atria, of the heart. As a group, these are know as supraventricular tachycardias, or SVTs. Types of SVTs are:
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Atrial Flutter
- AV Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia
- AV Reentrant Tachycardia
- Atrial Tachycardia
Less frequently, ablation can treat heart rhythm disorders that begin in the heart’s lower chambers, known as the ventricles. The most common, ventricular tachycardia, may also be the most dangerous type of arrhythmia because it can cause sudden cardiac death.
For patients at risk for sudden cardiac death, ablation often is used along with an implantable cardioverter device (ICD). The ablation decreases the frequency of abnormal heart rhythms in the ventricles and therefore reduces the number of ICD shocks a patient may experience.
For many types of arrhythmias, catheter ablation is successful in 90-98 % of cases – thus eliminating the need for open-heart surgery or long-term drug therapies: