Some of these rhythm problems are due to an extra electrical pathway which acts like a short-circuit causing the heart to beat very fast. If this pathway can be permanently interrupted (the term is ablated), the abnormally fast heartbeat can be cured.
This procedure is often performed as a second line treatment where medication has been unsuccessful or where serious side effects from the medications have occurred.
Some arrhythmias (abnormal heart beating) respond well to ablation such as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The success rate of ablation for the great majority of fast heart beats is 95 to 98%.
An ablation, like most invasive procedures, involves a small amount of risk. Some bleeding can happen where the catheter is inserted in the groin and some bruising can result.
If you notice any redness or swelling at the wound site you should contact your doctor.
Sometimes the heart’s normal electrical pathways can be damaged. If this happens, you may need to be fitted with a pacemaker to stop your heart from beating too slowly.
As ablation causes little or no pain, you are usually mildly sedated with local anaesthetic. Long, flexible tubes (catheters) are inserted through a vein in your groin or at your neck and threaded up to your heart. Once they are in the correct position, high frequency energy is sent through the wire to heat up and destroy an area of tissue that is causing the arrhythmia or irregular heart beat. This procedure usually takes 2 to 4 hours but if more complicated can take longer.
When your procedure is finished, all the tubes and wires are removed. Sometimes there can be a small amount of bleeding from the groin area when they are taken out. Pressure will be put on the area for a short while to stop any bleeding. Some bruising and tenderness is not uncommon.
You will be kept lying flat on your back for a few hours and may be kept in hospital overnight. Many people feel tired afterwards, but within a few days you should feel back to normal.
Ablation procedures can be very successful but for some people they may need to have it repeated. Medications may need to be continued even after ablation.
There are a range of changes you can make to your lifestyle that may help to improve your heart health and prevent further problems. These include:
Heart & Stroke Conditions A-Z – see our range of guides.
Step by Step through Heart Attack – our patient information booklet
Step by Step through Stroke – our patient information booklet
Step by Step through Heart Medicines – our patient information booklet
Step by Step through Inherited Heart Disease – our patient information booklet
Step by Step through Heart Failure – our patient information booklet