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Recovery from Cardiac Ablation

written by: Vasanth • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 4/26/2011

Cardiac ablation is a procedure to correct an irregular heart rhythm. Cardiac ablation recovery consists of a short hospital stay, followed by lifestyle changes to improve healing. There are several complications that may arise during the procedure and affect a normal recovery.

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    What is Cardiac Ablation?

    Cardiac ablation corrects an abnormal heart rhythm. The procedure involves inserting a catheter into a vein and guiding it up to the heart. At the tip of the catheter is an electrode which stimulates the heart muscle with either radiofrequency energy, a laser or cryoablation. The goal is to allow the electrical signal that controls the rhythm of the heart to reach the heart muscle without any hindrance.

    The procedure lasts three to six hours. The surgeon uses an x-ray monitor to view the heart and catheter. The monitor detects the radiation from a radioactive dye that was injected through the catheter. During the procedure, you may be awake or asleep.

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    After the Procedure

    Cardiac ablation recovery begins right after the procedure ends. You will rest for about four to six hours in a still position to prevent bleeding at the catheter site. Your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored closely for complications. Soreness and aches are common after the procedure. If there are no complications, you can go home the same day. Otherwise, you may be in the hospital for several days. Have someone bring you home after the procedure. Expect to return to normal activities within a few days of leaving the hospital.

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    Complications

    Cardiac ablation recovery is more harrowing with complications, of which there are several. Since the catheter is guided through a vein, damage to the walls of the vein is a possibility. When the catheter reaches the heart, there is a risk of puncturing the heart muscle. It is also possible to worsen the irregular heart rhythm. Here are a few more risks of cardiac ablation:

    • Bleeding at the catheter site.
    • Blood clots that cause a heart attack or stroke.
    • Narrowing of the veins between the lungs and heart.
    • Kidney damage caused by radioactive dye.

    These complications can be life threatening. The hospital stay is extended, and the recovery period is longer.

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    Lifestyle Changes

    Cardiac ablation is a major procedure that affects the overall health of the heart. There are several dietary and lifestyle changes that are recommended for the recovering heart. The goal is to improve the conditions which may cause abnormal heart rhythms, such as high blood pressure.

    After the procedure, avoid caffeine. It can affect the rhythm of the heart. Reduce the amount of salt consumed. Lowering the salt intake can lower the blood pressure. Increasing physical activity is a good way to improve the cardiovascular system.

    Avoid things which can affect recovery, such as smoking. It's also a good idea to avoid alcohol. Avoid unhealthy foods and try to maintain a healthy weight.

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    References

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

    2. "What To Expect After Catheter Ablation." National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ablation/ablation_after.html