Cardiac ablation treatment is a procedure to destroy the tissues in your heart that are causing abnormal heart rhythms by allowing incorrect electrical signals. When your heart beats, the electrical impulses that cause it to contract must follow a precise pathway through the heart, and when these impulses are interrupted, your heart encounters abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia. Common signs and symptoms of irregular heartbeat may include- chest pain, fatigue, breathlessness, palpitation, dizziness, changes in the pulse rate, and paleness. People who have already tried medications and have faced certain underlying side effects resulting in a failure to treat arrhythmia, may opt for a cardiac ablation.
During the treatment long flexible tubes known as catheters are inserted through the artery or vein in your groin and threaded to your heart to direct energy in the form of extreme cold or heat to modify the tissues in your heart that are causing irregular rhythms.Depending on your symptoms and medical background, the doctor will perform a few tests to evaluate your heart condition before starting with the treatment. Your doctor will probably ask you to abstain from drinking or eating anything after midnight the night before the treatment.
Before starting with the treatment you will be given anesthesia through an intravenous line in your arm, while the doctor monitors your heart’s electrical activity. The doctor will first clean and numb the area around your arm, neck or groin, and then make a cut on your skin. During the treatment long flexible tubes known as catheters are inserted through the artery or vein in your groin and threaded to your heart to direct energy in the form of extreme cold or heat to modify the tissues in your heart that are causing irregular rhythms. Once the catheter tube is placed, your doctor will place small electrodes in different areas of your heart. These electrodes connected to the monitors help your cardiologist determine which area in your heart is causing irregular rhythms.
Once the source of the problem is detected, the catheter line is used to direct electrical energy to that particular area, which causes a scar and thus stops the arrhythmia problem. There are two methods of performing a cardiac ablation- Radiofrequency ablation and Cryoablation.
Radiofrequency ablation is a medical procedure that uses energy generated from medium frequency alternating current in the range of 350-500kHz to ablate part of the electrical conducting system of the heart tissue. Cryoablation procedure is performed using extreme cold to destroy the tissues causing abnormal heart rhythms. The kind of procedure you will have depends on the kind of arrhythmia you have.
Anybody showing symptoms of atrial fibrillation such as heart palpitation, irregular heartbeat, rapid heart rate, is eligible for a cardiac ablation. However, you should consult a doctor and have yourself checked for any risk factor like diabetes or kidney problems before going for the treatment.
If you are pregnant and have a normal heart rate ranging between 60-100 beats per minute, then you do not have arrhythmia, and is not eligible for a cardiac ablation treatment.
Cardiac ablation treatment may lead to the following side effects- damage to your coronary arteries and heart valves, damage to your nerves, damage to the artery through which the catheter has been inserted, heart attack, blood clots, esophageal atrial fistula, etc.
Post treatment guidelines for cardiac ablation involve making lifestyle changes to improve the overall condition of your heart. Abstain from smoking and alcohol, keep yourself physically active and maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced healthy diet, reduce intake of salt as it may lead to high blood pressure, control your stress level. Also, make sure you go for regular check-ups with your doctor and follow the necessary medications as prescribed.
Recovery after a cardiac ablation usually takes a couple of weeks. You may come across a few side effects or after effects post treatment such as palpitation, but that will go away in about 8-10 weeks, and you will be monitored for at least 12 months.
In India the price for the cardiac ablation procedure starts from around Rs.70,000 and can go up to Rs.1,00,000 depending on the kind of method you will have to undergo.
Although not permanent, the results of the treatment are usually long-lasting. However, some people may have to repeat the procedure after a certain time period if they face problems of arrhythmia yet again. You will have to follow the medications and go for regular checkups in order to rule out the possibility of any further complication that may result from an ablation.
The alternatives to a cardiac ablation are medication and Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD). ICD is a battery-powered device implanted in your body to keep track of the heart rate. The device is connected to your heart through wires, and if an abnormal beat is detected, it will direct electric shocks to restore normal heartbeat. Other alternatives may include yoga and acupuncture.