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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.

What is ablation?

Used to treat irregular heartbeats, cardiac ablation uses heat or cold energy to block abnormal electrical signals and restore a regular heartbeat. The scarring in the intended areas helps to prevent your heart from producing irregular heartbeats. A cardiologist or cardiac surgeon will thoroughly evaluate your heart condition before deciding which type of ablation procedure is best for you.

What conditions does ablation treat?

What are the types of ablation procedures?

  • Catheter: This is the most common type of heart ablation. It is a minimally invasive procedure in which a cardiologist threads a catheter through a vein, typically in the groin, and guides it into your heart.
  • Surgical: Cardiac surgeons perform an open-heart ablation called a maze procedure while doing other heart surgery. If you need another heart surgery with ablation, this option would be recommended by your physician.
  • Hybrid: If you don’t need open-heart surgery, the surgeon can perform a mini maze procedure, making small incisions in the chest and inserting a catheter to treat the arrhythmia-causing signals.

Who is a candidate for ablation?

  • People who cannot undergo cardioversion, a procedure that uses electrical shocks to restore heart rhythm. One type of cardioversion uses a specific medication that some people are not able to take.
  • Professional athletes, or anyone who performs intense exercise, have an increased risk of developing AFib. However, AFib medication can affect performance, so ablation is the treatment option preferred by athletes.
  • People with heart disease, especially those at a high risk for AFib complications like cardiac arrest, would be recommended to have this procedure by their physician.

What are the benefits of ablation?

  • Restores normal heart rhythms
  • Reduce symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, or weakness
  • Typically removes the need for antiarrhythmic medication

What are the risk factors for ablation?

  • Arrhythmias
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to the vein from the sheath and catheter
  • Narrowing of the veins that carry blood between your lungs and heart
  • Exposure to radiation during catheter ablation
  • Infection or bleeding
  • Stroke or heart attack

Palpitations are sensations you feel when your heart rate speeds up, or when you can feel it thumping in your chest. They are common, and causes include exercise, stress, and caffeine. Arrhythmias are disruptions in regular heart rhythm and can have more serious symptoms, such as chest pain, light-headedness, and shortness of breath. If you believe you are experiencing arrhythmias, schedule an appointment with a St. Luke’s Health cardiologist.

Also referred to as AFib, atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia that can cause other heart conditions such as blood clots, stroke, and heart failure. Physicians may treat AFib with medication, recommending lifestyle changes, or by diagnosing and treating underlying conditions that cause irregular heartbeats.

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