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Catheter Ablation for Cardiac Arrhythmias

Many arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms) are caused by abnormal electrical pathways or abnormal foci of cardiac (heart) cells that stimulate the heart.  Catheter ablation is a procedure which is used to identify the site of the abnormal rhythm and deliver energy to the site of the arrhythmia and potentially cure the arrhythmia.

The procedure involves identifying the site(s) of the arrhythmia during an EP (electrophysiology) study and threading small catheters usually from the vein in the groin to the site of the abnormal rhythm.  A radiofrequency generator then heats the tip of the catheter, or a cryocatheter freezes the tip of the catheter to terminate the ability of the area to conduct the electrical impulse and cause the arrhythmia. [this paragraph was moved up]

Catheter ablation is commonly used to treat supraventricular tachycardias (SVTs) such as those due to WPW (Wolff Parkinson White) syndrome which is an abnormal electrical connection between the top and bottom chambers (which some people are born with) which suddenly causes the heart to race; or AVNRT (AV node reentrant tachycardia) which is an arrhythmia involving the normal conduction system. 

Other arrhythmias from the top of the heart such as atrial tachycardia, atrial flutter, and atrial fibrillation are also potentially amenable to ablation.  Some types of ventricular tachycardia (VT) are also able to be treated with ablation.

The procedure is done similarly to the EP study, in the EP laboratory. While most ablations can be performed under light to moderate sedation and take two to three hours, ablation of the more complex arrhythmias (such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia) are often done under general anesthesia and generally take four to six hours.  Success rates of most ablations such as SVT can run over 95%, with procedures done as outpatients.

Given the very high success rates and low complication rates it is often recommended as the first line of therapy of many arrhythmias.

To learn more about the services provided by Westchester Heart and Vascular please contact us at:

866-WMC-HEART (866.962.4327).