Ablation, also known as
catheter ablation, is a treatment that aims to control or
correct certain types of abnormally fast heart
An abnormal heart rhythm is known as an arrhythmia.
An ablation is done using the same technique as an electrophysiology (EP) study and is often
carried out at the same time. The EP study can discover if you
have extra electrical pathways in your heart that could be causing
your abnormally fast heart rhythm.
What should I expect during an ablation?
Radiofrequency energy is used to destroy the area inside your heart causing the abnormal heart rhythm.
You'll be given a
local anaesthetic and sedation to help ease any discomfort you may
feel during the procedure. However, the process may take a few
hours so it can still be an uncomfortable experience as you may
need to lie flat and keep still.
First, thin, flexible tubes called catheters are placed into one
of your veins or arteries, in your groin or wrist. The catheters
are gently moved into the correct position in your heart.
If you haven’t already had an EP
study, your cardiologist will do this to pinpoint the exact
area of your heart where the problem is.
Radiofrequency energy is then used to destroy the affected area
inside your heart that's causing the abnormal heart rhythm. This
process will help block the abnormal electrical impulses in that
part of your heart.
If the ablation is going to destroy the heart’s natural
pacemaker – the AV node – you may be fitted with a pacemaker days
or even weeks earlier. This is known as ‘ablate and pace’.
When your ablation is over, the catheters are removed. There
might be a small amount of bleeding from the groin area when they
are taken out. A nurse or doctor will press on the area for a short
while to stop any bleeding. You should expect to see some bruising
and to feel tender.
What happens after the treatment?
After the procedure, you'll need to stay lying
flat on your back, rest for a few hours and may need to stay in
hospital overnight. You’ll likely feel tired afterwards, but you
should feel back to normal within a few days. Most people can start
driving after a couple of days but your nurse or doctor will let
you know either way.
If you have any questions about the procedure, you can call our
Heart Helpline on 0300 330 3311 or speak with your doctor or
Are there any risks to having an ablation?
An ablation does involve a very small amount
of risk. Your doctor will explain any risks before you give your
consent to have the procedure. Your doctor will only recommend
that you have this procedure if he or she thinks the benefits
outweigh the risks.
Ablation can sometimes cause a little bleeding
where the catheter was inserted. Some bruising is expected but you
may develop a small collection of blood under the skin – known as a
haematoma. If the wound site becomes very red and swollen contact
There is a small risk of damage to the heart's
normal electrical pathways. If this happens, you may need to be
fitted with a pacemaker
to stop your heart from beating too slowly.