Cardiac Ablation Overview


For patients diagnosed with a heart arrhythmia, cardiac ablation may be recommended to treat the condition. Cardiac ablation, or catheter ablation, is a minimally invasive surgical procedure to eliminate small areas of heart tissue that may be the cause of the irregular heartbeat. Cardiac ablation is not recommended for every patient –arrhythmia may also be controlled with medicine or other noninvasive means.

The cardiac ablation procedure typically lasts 3 to 4 hours. Patients are given intravenous medication to help them relax or general anesthesia in some cases. The doctor makes a small hole in the skin of the groin and rarely the neck, and then inserts a catheter (a thin tube) which is directed to the heart through blood vessels. Once the catheter is in place, the doctor uses electrodes at the end of the tube to stimulate the heart muscles and identify the areas responsible for the abnormal rhythm. Radiofrequency energy (heating) or cryoablation (freezing) is used to "ablate" or destroy the problem tissue. After the tissue is eliminated, the abnormal electrical signals causing the arrhythmia should no longer be present.

Patients may experience mild discomfort in the chest, but the procedure is typically not painful. After the catheter is removed from the chest, patients must rest for at least 4 hours while their heart is monitored by the medical team.

Learn more about cardiac ablation at BWH.

Cardiac ablation at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center

The Center's Cardiac Arrhythmia Service provides comprehensive treatment options that include cardiac ablation. The Cardiac Arrhythmia Service team is one of the most experienced in the world and is devoted solely to the care of patients with irregular heart rhythms, rapid heartbeats and heart palpitations.As the most advanced cardiovascular care center of its kind in the New England area, the Carl J. and Ruth Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at BWH offers the very latest in diagnostics and treatment for patients with a variety of cardiac or cardiovascular. From heart valve replacement to coronary angioplasty, the physicians and caregivers at the Shapiro Center provide expert treatment and compassionate care.

Surgical ablation and other treatment options for cardiac arrhythmia

In addition to cardiac ablation, physicians at BWH may recommend other treatment for arrhythmia, including:

  • Medication, normally the front-line treatment for rapid heart rates and atrial fibrillation treatment.
  • Procedures to implant devices, such as pacemaker surgery, which provide an option for continual electrical therapy for life-threatening arrhythmias.
  • Surgical ablation, which is recommended only when other measures have failed as it involves open heart surgery to destroy the problematic tissue.

Learn more about the Cardiac Ablation procedure at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

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