In an arrhythmia, a portion of the heart ‘short circuits,’ and upsets the heart’s normal rhythm. Cardiac ablation is a catheter procedure that simply creates scar tissue in the portion of the heart that is short circuiting, thus restoring a normal heart rhythm. Cardiac ablation is typically used in the treatment of atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia or other supra ventricular arrhythmias. It is sometimes used in the treatment of ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation or premature ventricular contractions.
Ablation is a non-surgical procedure and is performed in a hospital with the patient under general anesthesia.
The type of arrhythmia a person has determines the specific type of ablation used. Types of cardiac arrhythmias in which ablation procedures are used include:
Atrioventricular nodal (AVN) ablation – treats conditions such as atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia. The ablation focuses on the AV node, a specialized tissue which is part of the heart’s electrical system. This is performed in conjunction with the implantation of a pacemaker.
Epicardial Ablation – minimally-invasive ablation procedure that employs small incisions below the ribs to treat regions on the outside of the heart. While not suitable for all patients, when indicated it can help reduce procedure and recovery times.
Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST) Ablation – Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST) is an abnormally high heart rate caused by the sinus node, which is the heart’s primary pacemaker tissue. IST is often difficult to treat but catheter ablation, sometimes combined with pacemaker implants, has shown promising results.
Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC) Ablation – premature ventricular complexes (PVC) result from extraneous beats from the lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, and are generally easy to detect. While PVCs are not always dangerous, they can pose a more serious threat to patients with heart disease. If PVCs cannot be controlled using medication, a PVC ablation can selectively remove the heart tissue causing the arrhythmia.
Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) Ablation – Supraventricular tachycardias (SVT), so called because they originate in the heart’s upper chambers, are among the most common arrhythmias. SVT, which causes a rapid or “racing” heartbeat, can be treated using ablation therapy which targets and eliminates the heart cells causing the irregular heartbeat.
Ventricular Tachycardia (VT) / Ventricular Fibrillation (VF) Ablation – Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a fast heart rhythm in one of the heart’s ventricles. VT is sometimes a precursor to ventricular fibrillation (VF), a very serious condition in which the heart experiences uncontrolled contractions that can lead to sudden cardiac death.