Cardiac Ablation

Cardiac catheter ablation is a specialist procedure used to treat abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). A thin tube called a ‘catheter’ is inserted into a blood vessel, usually via the groin, and guided towards the heart using x-ray imaging. Once in place, bursts of high-frequency electrical energy are directed towards the affected area of the heart. This causes scar tissue which cannot transmit electrical activity, effectively destroying its ability to cause abnormal heart rhythms.

What are the benefits?

A successful procedure may mean that you will be able to stop taking some, if not all, of your anti-arryhythmic drugs and experience fewer or no palpitations at all.

Are there any alternatives?

You can continue on anti-arrhythmia drug therapy.  For arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) that are brief/temporary and non-life threatening, patients can be taught certain techniques or ‘manoeuvres’ to slow the heart rate.  If you do not experience symptoms very often, you can choose to live with your palpitations.  Surgery may be necessary for patients with very refractory arrhythmias or be offered at the same time as other heart surgery.

What are the risks?

All medical procedures can be associated with a degree of risk. The risk of a serious complication (death, stroke, perforation of the heart or vascular injury) is rarely greater than one to two per cent (1 – 2%). The risk of damage to your normal electrical system, resulting in the need for a pacemaker, is also rarely greater than one to two per cent (1 – 2%). Please note that individual risks may vary and this will be discussed by your consultant both in outpatients and before the procedure.

Passing catheters through blood vessels, veins and arteries can cause bruising, swelling and bleeding at the site where the catheter was inserted in the groin; staff in the catheter laboratory and on the ward will monitor this carefully and help to limit any discomfort that may be caused.

Consultants linked to treatment

Location where service is offered

Royal Brompton Hospital and Harefield Hospital

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