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Treating Heart Arrhythmias With Ablation

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What Happens After Nonsurgical Catheter Ablation?

After your nonsurgical catheter ablation:

  • The doctor will remove the catheters from your groin and apply pressure to the site to prevent bleeding. You will be on bed rest for one to six hours. Keep your legs as still as possible during this time to prevent bleeding.
  • After your procedure, you may be admitted to the hospital. During your recovery, a special monitor, called telemetry, will be used to follow your heart rate and rhythm. Telemetry consists of a small box connected by wires to your chest with sticky electrode patches. The box allows your heart rhythm to be displayed on several monitors on the nursing unit. The nurses will be able to observe your heart rate and rhythm. In most cases, you will be able to go home the next day after the catheter ablation procedure but in some cases you may be able to go home the same day of the procedure.
  • You and your family will receive the results of the procedure afterwards. Your doctor will also discuss when you can resume activities and how often you will need to visit your doctor.
  • Temporarily, many individuals experience heart palpitations on and off for a few weeks after the procedure. Sometimes you may also feel as if your abnormal heart rhythm is returning, but then it stops. These sensations are normal and you should not be alarmed. When these symptoms occur during your recovery, it is important to document them by calling your doctor or nurse as directed. Also call your doctor or nurse if you feel as if your abnormal heart rhythm has recurred.
  • You may be required to take medications for a certain period of time after your procedure.

If you have any other questions, please ask your doctor or nurse. Ask your health care provider how often you will need to go for follow-up appointments.

How Should I Care for the Wound Site?

You will have a small dressing on your wound. It may be removed the next day. Keep the area clean and dry.

Call your doctor if you notice any redness, swelling, or drainage at the incision site.

What Can I Expect During Surgical Ablation?

During surgical ablation, you can expect the following:

  • General anesthesia (the patient is asleep) or local anesthesia with sedation (the patient is awake but relaxed and pain-free) may be used, depending on the individual case.
  • During minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon views the outer surface of the heart using an endoscope. Specialized instruments are used to locate the areas needing ablation and to create the lines of conduction block. Unlike traditional heart surgery, there is no large chest wall incision, and the heart is not stopped.
  • The Maze procedure requires an incision along the sternum (breast bone). The incision may be traditional (about 6 to 8 inches long), or in some cases, minimally invasive (about 3 to 5 inches long). The patient is asleep and the heart is stopped during this procedure. A heart-lung machine oxygenates the blood and circulates it throughout the body during surgery.
  • The modified Maze procedure involves using one of four different energy sources to create the lines of conduction block (radiofrequency, microwave, laser, or cryothermy). The energy probe of choice is inserted, and under direct vision, used to create the lesion lines. As in the classic Maze procedure, these lesions create lines of conduction block that interrupt the abnormal impulses and restore the normal sinus rhythm. This procedure is used primarily in patients who have atrial fibrillation and other indications for cardiac surgery.

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