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Treating Heart Arrhythmias With Ablation

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What Can I Expect During Nonsurgical Catheter Ablation? continued...

After the catheters are in place, the doctor will look at the monitor to assess your heart's conduction system.

Then, the doctor will perform the ablation procedure.

During traditional ablation, the doctor will use a pacemaker-like device to send electrical impulses to the heart to increase your heart rate. You may feel your heart beating faster or stronger when the pacemaker delivers the impulses. If your arrhythmia occurs during the procedure, the nurse will ask you how you are feeling. It is very important to tell the doctor or nurse the symptoms you feel. The doctor will then move the catheters around your heart to see which area(s) your arrhythmia is coming from. Once the doctor finds the area of your arrhythmia, energy is applied. You may feel some discomfort or a burning sensation in your chest, but you must keep very still and avoid taking deep breaths. If you are feeling pain, tell your doctor or nurse and ask them to give you more medication.

During pulmonary vein ablation (for atrial fibrillation), the doctor delivers energy through a catheter to the area of the atria that connects to the pulmonary vein (ostia), producing a circular scar. The scar will then block any impulses firing from within the pulmonary veins, thus preventing atrial fibrillation from occurring. The process is repeated to all four pulmonary veins. In some cases, ablation may also be performed to other parts of the heart such as the subclavian veins and coronary sinus. The catheter is a special "cool tip" catheter. Fluid circulates through the catheter to help control the intensity of the temperature.

Once the ablation is complete, the electrophysiologist will use monitoring devices to observe the electrical signals in the heart to ensure that the abnormal heart rhythm was corrected.

The procedure usually takes about 4 to 8 hours, but may take longer.

What Happens After 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.

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