Why is the doctor performing this procedure?
To treat an abnormal heart rhythm by ablating or destroying an area of the heart that is responsible either for initiating an abnormal impulse, or conducting the impulse, within the heart. Radiofrequency ablation is a non-surgical procedure used to treat some types of rapid heart beating. It's most often used to treat superventricular tachyarrhythmias. These are rapid, uncoordinated heartbeats. They start in the heart's upper chambers (atria) or middle region (AV node or the very beginning portion of the heart's electrical system).
What is the procedure?
Catheter ablation is a procedure that allows energy to be delivered, through a catheter, to a portion of the heart. A catheter is a 3-4mm wide tube which may be either hollow or wire-filled. The catheter tip may have anywhere from two to ten electrode pairs that allow for the measurement of electrical force, as well as the delivery of radio frequency energy.
A physician guides a catheter with an electrode at its' tip to the area of heart muscle where there is an accessory (extra) pathyway. The catheter is guided with real-time, moving x-rays (fluroscopy) displayed on a video screen. The procedure helps the doctor place the catheter at the exact site inside the heart where cells give off the electrical signals that stimulate the abnormal heart rhythm. Then a mild radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) is transmitted to the pathway. This destroys carefully selected heart muscle cells in a very small area (about 1/5 of an inch). That stops the area from conducting the extra impulses that caused the rapid heartbeats.
A large variety of these rhythm problems utilize an abnormal electrical pathway. This abnormal pathway may frequently be abolished by applying radio frequency energy to the specific area of the heart where the pathway lies.
Where is the procedure performed?
In the Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratory (EP Lab).
How long does this procedure take?
Catheter ablation may take anywhere from one to three hours.