Catheter Ablation


This procedure guides a wire into the heart to destroy small areas of heart tissue that may be causing an abnormal heartbeat. Heat (radiofrequency) or cold energy (cryoablation) are the two most common ways to destroy abnormal heart tissue. It is an alternative to long-term or lifelong medication therapy. It is also an option when medicine fails to control the heart rhythm problem.

Conditions Treated

The types of abnormal heart rhythms treated with ablation include:

What to Expect

Catheter ablation can take anywhere from three to six hours. Before the procedure starts, the patient is given intravenous (IV) medicine to help relax. Some people even fall asleep. After the medicine has taken effect, the doctor numbs an area in the groin. Rarely, the arm or neck is used.

The doctor inserts several IV lines (IVs) into a blood vessel and advances them to the heart. Through these IVs, the doctor can insert several wires and a small catheter into the heart. A type of X-ray helps the doctor view the heart and wires as the procedure is happening.

After the catheters are positioned, the doctor sends heat or cold energy from the tip of the catheter to destroy (ablate) the problem area of cells. After ablation, the doctor will test the heart to make sure that the abnormal heart rhythm is no longer present. Medicine to stimulate the heart may also be used to test for abnormal heart rhythms.

Most people do not feel pain during the procedure. After the ablation, the doctor removes the guide wire and catheter. Pressure is applied to the insertion site to stop any bleeding. The patient is asked to lie still for 4 to 6 hours to decrease the risk of bleeding. Their heart rhythm is monitored and they are offered pain medicine, if needed. Most patients go home the same day.

Depending on the type of arrhythmia being treated, catheter ablation can have a success rate of more than 90 percent. Some people may need to have the procedure again or other treatments for heart arrhythmia.

Schedule an Evaluation

Schedule an appointment with the Ben and Zelda Cohen Heart Rhythm Center by calling 410-601-9355 (WELL).


Some content provided by The StayWell Company, LLC.