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What to Expect After Cardiac Ablation

written by: Vasanth • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/11/2011

Cardiac ablation is a procedure where a catheter is inserted into the heart to correct irregular heart rhythms. What to expect after cardiac ablation? A normal heart rhythm is usually the result. You are monitored for several hours after the procedure. Complications include damaged blood vessels.

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    What is Cardiac Ablation

    Cardiac ablation is a surgical procedure designed to normalize a person's heart rhythm. It involves the use of long flexible tubes that are inserted into a vein and guided to the heart. Once the tube has reached the heart, a radioactive dye is injected into the catheter. A scanner detects the radioactivity and a monitor displays the image of the heart.

    At the end of the catheter are a set of electrodes. Once the surgeon identifies the tissue that is blocking the electrical signals to the heart, he or she will direct the catheter at that tissue and zap it with energy. The source of the energy is either a radiofrequency, a laser or cryoablation.

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    Results of Cardiac Ablation

    What to expect after cardiac ablation? Generally, cardiac ablation treatments are successful. The heart rhythm normalizes without side effects. Some may need a second or third ablation to fully correct the abnormal heart rhythm. The doctor may also prescribe medications.

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    Complications

    Since this is an invasive procedure, there are risks. The catheter is threaded through a vein until it reaches the heart. Along the way, the tube may damage the walls of the vein. The site where the catheter is initially inserted can bleed profusely if not managed properly. Also, the catheter may puncture the heart as the surgeon slides it into place.

    Another complication with the procedure is the interaction between the radioactive dye and the kidneys. The kidneys filter the blood of waste, including the dye. The components of the dye may damage the cells of the kidney.

    There is a risk of blood clots, which could lead to a stroke or heart attack. The veins that carry blood between the lungs and heart may narrow. Also, the procedure could damage the heart's electrical system, which could worsen the arrhythmia.

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    Recovery Period

    Know what to expect after cardiac ablation, including the recovery period. After the procedure, you will lie down between four and six hours. During this time, you have to be very still to prevent bleeding at the catheter site. The medical staff will monitor your blood pressure and heart rate to see if anything is wrong. If everything is okay, you could go home the day of the procedure. Make arrangements to have someone pick you up, since you will be weak and slightly sedated. If there are signs of trouble, you may stay in the hospital up to three days.

    Soreness is normal and will last about a week. You can return to a normal routine within a few days. The doctor may recommend dietary changes to maintain a normal heart rhythm. This includes avoiding caffeine, reducing salt intake and avoiding alcohol. Certain lifestyle changes are also recommended including quitting smoking.

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    Reference

    1. "Cardiac Ablation." Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cardiac-ablation/MY00706

    2. "Cardiac Ablation." Hackensack University Medical Center. http://www.humc.com/heartcenters/electrophysiology/page04.shtml#ablation