What is Ablation Therapy?
Catheter ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure to correct arrhythmias, or problems with the heart’s rhythm. This therapy either scars or destroys the tissue in the heart where the abnormal heart rhythms are either triggered or sustained.
Dr. Smith generally does cardiac ablation therapy by using a flexible catheter. The catheter uses radiofrequency energy, cryothermy, or laser energy to create the scar tissue. Ablation can also be done through open-heart surgery, but this is to be avoided unless absolutely necessary.
Who is a candidate for Cardiac Ablation Therapy?
The purpose of cardiac ablation therapy is to correct problems with a patient’s heart rhythms. For your heart to beat correctly, it contracts regularly in rhythm. These contractions are initiated by electrical impulses that follow a precise path through your heart. Any interruption in these impulses can cause arrhythmia.
If you have arrhythmia, ablation isn’t the first treatment option Dr. Smith will use. Cardiac ablation could be a good option for patients who:
- Haven’t responded to medications to threat their arrhythmia
- Experienced serious side effects with these medications
- Have types of arrhythmias that respond well to ablation
- Have a high risk for complications, such as cardiac arrest, due to their arrhythmias
Types of Ablation Therapy
The goal of ablation is to destroy the pathway of the abnormal rhythm. It can also disconnect the electrical pathway between the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart. The type of ablation depends upon the type of arrhythmia. These are the types of ablation:
- Atrial flutter ablation — This creates scar tissue within the upper right chamber of the heart to block the electrical signals causing a fluttering heartbeat. Atrial flutter occurs when your heart’s electrical signals tell the upper chambers of your heart to beat too quickly.
- Pulmonary vein isolation — This creates scar tissue in the part of the left upper chamber of your heart where each of your four pulmonary veins connects.
- Supraventricular tachycardia — This ablation creates scar tissue within the heart’s upper chambers.
- Ventricular tachycardia ablation — Ventricular tachycardia occurs when electrical signals within the lower chambers of your heart cause your heart to beat too quickly. This ablation eliminates areas where the erratic signals arise.
Cardiac Ablation Procedure
Dr. Macy Smith typically uses catheter ablations for the procedure. Cardiac ablation is a closed chest procedure on a beating heart. The procedure usually takes 1-3 hours, but If you have more than one area of abnormal tissue, the procedure will take longer.
During the ablation, Dr. Smith numbs a small area near a vein on your groin, neck, or forearm. He then inserts a needle into the vein and places a tube, or sheath, through the needle. The catheters will be threaded through the sheath and guided to various places within your heart using X-ray imaging. The catheters have electrodes at the tips that send electrical impulses to your heart to record the heart’s electrical activity. This process of determining what’s causing your arrhythmia is an electrophysiology study. This will determine the best way to treat your arrhythmia.
Once Dr. Smith identifies the abnormal heart tissue behind your arrhythmia, he aims the catheter tips at the area of abnormal heart tissue. The catheter uses an energy source to create a lesion of scar tissue. This is called a conduction block, which stops the erratic electrical signals from traveling through the heart.
Dr. Smith Performing Cardiac Ablation
What is the success rate for ablation therapy?
The success of ablation therapy can vary depending on particular arrhythmia. But Dr. Smith has a success rate of over 90 percent when typically using radiofrequency ablation. Cardiac ablation is now a popular and the preferred treatment for many types of rapid heartbeats.
Recovery after Cardiac Ablation
Cardiac ablation is a successful, safe procedure. It has a very low risk of complications. Most patients can return home after the procedure (we’ll first monitor your heart rate for a few hours). Patients can resume normal activities in just a few days, and the procedure involves little or no discomfort.
Schedule a Consultation
For more information on ablation therapy and to see if this is the right treatment for you, call 205.510.5000 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Macy C. Smith. Dr. Smith serves Birmingham, AL and surrounding areas.