Catheter Ablation

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Catheter ablation involves putting catheters (small, thin wires) into the heart through the arm, neck or groin to use heat or cold to ablate (destroy) small bits of tissue that are causing abnormal heart rhythms.  The doctor may use special catheters or systems to identify where the abnormal rhythm is coming from, then use the special catheter to target the small tissue that is causing the abnormal rhythm. 

Abnormal heart rhythms, also called arrhythmias, can cause a variety of symptoms from palpitations to fainting.  Some of the symptoms may be lifestyle-limiting or no longer controlled by medication.

In many cases, catheter ablation may be able to permanently get rid of the abnormal rhythm. Our doctors discuss the risks, side effects, and complications with our patients before the procedure.  Not every abnormal rhythm can be treated with catheter ablation. 

How to Prepare for a Catheter Ablation Procedure

Your doctor will have you not eat or drink, usually after midnight, before your procedure.  You doctor will instruct you what medications to stop or take before your procedure.  No other special preparation is required.

The hospital staff will usually call you before the procedure.  Patients usually arrive several hours before the procedure so that laboratory tests, IV's, history, and medication review can be completed prior to your procedure.

Catheter ablation procedures vary widely in complexity depending on the type of rhythm being treated.  Catheter ablation can take anywhere from 1 to 6 hours, with the more complex cases requiring the most time.  Recovery will also depend on the type of ablation procedure.  Some people may be able to go home the same day while others may require an overnight stay or longer.  Your doctor will explain the expected time spent in the hospital.

What to Expect During a Catheter Ablation Procedure

The procedure room is a cool temperature and full of equipment.  The table is narrow and the staff will assist you into a comfortable position on the table.  The staff will explain all the preparations as they get you ready for the procedure.  You will have your groin or neck prepared with special soap to help prevent infections.  A surgical drape is used to keep you covered during the procedure.

Depending on the complexity of the procedure, you will receive a light sedation or general anesthesia for your procedure.  For the less complex procedures, local anesthesia and light sedation are typically used.  You will have minimal pain, but may have some symptoms as we put you into the abnormal rhythm.  Most patients are drowsy and relaxed or sleep through most of the procedure.  For the more complex procedures, an anesthesiologist will sedate you or put you to sleep with a general anesthetic.

Recovery after the Catheter Ablation Procedure

For the less complex ablation procedures you will be awake and talking at the end of the procedure.  For the complex procedures that require a general anesthetic, you will be taken to a recovery room for a period of time.

The catheters are placed in the heart through puncture sites in the groin, arm or neck.  The staff will remove the catheters and hold pressure on the puncture sites at the end of the procedure.  You will have some soreness the next few days at the puncture sites.  You may see a small amount of bruising around the puncture sites that will go away.  You will be instructed on care of your puncture sites before you go home and any possible complications to watch for.

You will be on bed rest to allow the puncture sites to start healing.  Most procedures require 2 - 4 hours of bed rest.  Staff will also instruct you on preventing complications at the puncture sites.

Some patients may be able to go home the same day.  Due to the sedation, you will need someone to drive you home and stay with you the first 24 hours to watch for any problems.  More complex procedures will require at least an overnight stay or longer.  Your physician will discuss this with you before the procedure.  You may be able to return to work within a day or so or longer depending on your type of procedure.  Your doctor will talk to you about this.  You may be given a mild pain medication to help with soreness at the puncture sites.  You may have some residual soreness in your chest that will subside.

Your doctor will also talk to you or leave instructions about what medications to continue, start or stop after your procedure and you will also have instructions on follow-up appointments.

Why Choose Aurora for a Catheter Ablation Procedure?

The physicians at Aurora Healthcare have been doing ablations for many years.  Our physicians receive referrals from all over the country to treat complex abnormal rhythms.  The staff who assist the physician during the procedures also have special training and many years of experience in working with patients who require catheter ablation.  Our physicians and staff participate in research studies for ablation techniques and technology.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or vascular specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.