Sometimes, the electrical system within the heart
can travel in different directions due to additional
cells or extra electrical connections known
as “pathways within the heart”. Catheter ablation
is a technique used to treat a variety of
heart rhythm disorders by removing the extra
electrical cells which can cause the arrhythmia.
During the procedure
Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive
procedure, which is usually performed using local
anaesthetic. Most patients are also given
some sedation, which makes you feel relaxed
and you may go to sleep for a while.
During the procedure some fine tubes will be
inserted into the blood vessel at the top of the
right leg and sometimes in the shoulder under
the collarbone or in your neck. Fine wires, or
catheters, are then passed through the tubes
and positioned at certain locations within the
heart. Extra beats are then delivered using an
external pacemaker, which may bring on your
palpitations. This is necessary to see where the
defected heart rhythm is coming from. The
doctor performing the procedure will then
begin to ablate the pathway or area of extra
electrical cells. This is done by delivering a
form of energy down the wire to the target area
within the heart.
Once the procedure has finished, the wires and
tubes will be removed and you will spend a few
hours recovering on the ward.
After the ablation
Most people recover quickly from the procedure
and feel well enough to carry on with normal
activities the following day. However, you
should avoid heavy lifting for about two
The DVLA states that you must not drive for two
days after the ablation. If you work, you may wish
to take a few days off to recover fully.
Following the ablation, it is quite common
to be aware of your own heartbeat, even in
normal rhythm. Some people are aware of
extra or “missed” beats. Try not to worry too
much about these symptoms, which usually
settle down with time.
If you experience palpitations or a racing heartbeat,
you should report this to your doctor, as
this may indicate that the procedure has not been
The benefit of having a catheter ablation
is that your heart rhythm disturbance is
cured without the need of ongoing medication.
This is possible in the vast majority of cases
however, a small number of individuals will
need more than one session of treatment.
Courtesy of Arrhtyhmia Alliance. Registered Charity No. 1107496 ©2010