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Overview

When an electrophysiology study reveals an arrhythmia, focused application of energy can be used to silence the abnormal activity. This type of ablation can be applied minimally invasively using a transcatheter approach under general anesthesia. During ablation, a catheter with an electrode at its tip is inserted into the heart through a vessel in the groin and moved to the site where the problem is occurring. The energy may be delivered with the use of high frequency radio waves (radiofrequency ablation) that heat very focused, small areas of abnormal heart muscle, or may be delivered by freezing these areas of abnormal heart muscle using cryoablation.

Reasons for treatment 

Cardiac ablation is the procedure of choice for eligible candidates looking for a permanent cure of their arrhythmia, rather than managing the arrhythmia over time with medication or repeated electrical cardioversion.

Conditions commonly treated with ablation include:

  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • Supraventricular tachycardia
  • Atrial tachycardia
  • Atrial flutter
  • Ventricular tachycardia

Risks & side effects

There are few risks with catheter ablation. Fewer than 5 percent of people who have the procedure develop any problems. More serious risks are reported in approximately 1 percent of patients. The most common problems result from the use of catheters – long, thin tubes doctors insert into your arteries or veins. Inserting the tubes can unusually damage your blood vessel or cause bleeding or bruising. More serious problems are rare. 

Preparing for treatment

Your child’s doctor will discuss risks, benefits and choices with you and ask you to sign an informed consent form giving permission to perform the procedure. Be sure to follow any other instructions your child’s doctor provides.

A cardiac electrophysiologist (a doctor trained in the electrical system of the heart) performs the procedure, which usually takes two to three hours. It is usually necessary for the patient to rest for four to five hours after the procedure to minimize any bleeding risks. Although the vast majority of patients are able to go home directly after the procedure, some are observed overnight in the hospital. 

What to expect after treatment 

Always follow the instructions your doctor or nurse gives you. In most cases, patients can typically return to their daily activities  several days after their procedure. Strenuous activity is usually restricted for one week after the procedure.