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Treating Arrhythmias with Ablation

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 9/23/2010

Due you suffer from an arrhythmia? If so, read on to learn more about arrhythmia ablation.

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    An arrhythmia is simply defined as as abnormal or irregular heart rhythm. The presence of other heart disease and the type of arrhythmia whether the patient will have a non-surgical or surgical ablation. Arrhythmia ablation involves a catheter being inserted into the heart and then a special machine will send energy through that catheter to the tiny areas of heart muscle causing the patient to have an abnormal or irregular heart rhythm.

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    What Can Ablation Treat?

    This procedure can be used to treat several different abnormal or irregular heart rhythms. These include:

    • AV nodal reentrant tachycardia
    • Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter
    • Accessory pathway
    • Ventricular tachycardia
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    Types of Ablation

    Surgical ablation is used to treat atrial fibrillation and it can be an open surgery or a minimally invasive surgery. When open, it may be combined with other surgical procedures, such as valve repair, bypass surgery, or valve replacement. The different types of surgical ablation include the Maze procedure, the modified Maze procedure, and the minimally invasive surgical ablation.

    A non-surgical ablation us used for a variety of arrhythmias and is performed in a special lab known as an electrophysiology laboratory.

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    The procedure

    The patient will be connected to a variety of monitors so that a nurse can continuously assess the patient during the procedure. The patient will then be administered a sedative and their sites where the catheter will be inserted will be numbed by the doctor prior to beginning an arrhythmia ablation. The doctor will begin the procedure by carefully inserting several catheters into the small incision he made and into a large blood vessel. Then, through one of the catheters a transducer is inserted so that during the procedure, intracardiac ultrasound can be done. The catheters are then carefully led to the heart through the blood vessels. A device similar to a pacemaker is then used to transport electrical impulses to the heart so that the heart rate increases. The catheters are then used to locate the areas where an arrhythmia is beginning and once it is located, the abnormal impulses are stopped through applying energy through the catheter. Once ablation is finished, the patient will be monitored to ensure that any abnormal or irregular rhythm was corrected.

    Patients may experience some discomfort during this procedure. If pain is experienced, they should tell their doctor so they can provide more medication if necessary.

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    What to Expect After the Procedure

    Some patients will have to stay in the hospital overnight, while others are able to go home. The patient's doctor will make this decision. The patient will be given all aftercare instructions prior to going home and should make sure to follow these exactly. Patients may be prescribed the following medications following this procedure:

    • Anticoagulants
    • Diuretics
    • Antiarrhythmics
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    Resources

    The Cleveland Clinic. (2010). What is a Cardiac Arrhythmia? Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from The Cleveland Clinic: http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/services/tests/procedures/ablation.aspx

    MedicineNet.com. (2010). Heart Disease: Treating Arrhythmias with Ablation. Retrieved on September 12, 2010 from MedicineNet.com: http://www.medicinenet.com/ablation_therapy_for_arrhythmias/article.htm