Cardiac ablation procedures


Ablate means "to destroy." Cardiac ablation is a procedure that is used to destroy small areas in your heart that may be causing your heart rhythm problems.

During the procedure, small wires called electrodes are placed inside your heart to measure your heart's electrical activity. These electrodes may also be used to destroy the bad areas of your heart.

Alternative Names

Catheter ablation; Radiofrequency catheter ablation


Cardiac ablation procedures are done in a hospital laboratory by specially trained staff. This includes cardiologists (heart doctors) trained in electrophysiology, technicians, and nurses. The setting is safe and controlled to make your risk as low as possible.

You will be given a mild sedative before the procedure to help you relax.

Once the catheter is in place, your doctor places small electrodes in different areas of your heart.

Catheter ablation is a long procedure that can last 4 or more hours During the procedure your heart will be monitored closely. A nurse or doctor may ask you if you are having symptoms at different times during the procedure. Symptoms you may feel are:

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Cardiac ablation is used to treat certain heart rhythm problems that medicines are not controlling. These problems may be dangerous for you if they are not treated.

Common symptoms of heart rhythm problems may include:

Some heart rhythm problems are:


Catheter ablation is generally safe. Talk with your doctor about these rare complications:

Before the Procedure

Always tell your doctor or nurse what drugs you are taking, even drugs or herbs you bought without a prescription.

During the days before the procedure:

On the day of the procedure:

After the Procedure

Pressure to reduce bleeding is put on the area where the catheters were inserted into your body. You will be kept in bed for at least 1 hour, and maybe up to 5 or 6 hours. Your heart rhythm will be monitored during this time.

Your doctor will decide whether you can go home on the same day or if you will need to stay in the hospital overnight to continue monitoring your heart. You will need someone to drive you home after your procedure

For 2 or 3 days after your procedure, you may have these symptoms:

Your doctor may keep you on your medicines, or give you new ones that help control your heart rhythm.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Success rates are different depending on what type of heart rhythm problem is being treated.


Calkins H, Brugada J, Packer DL, Cappato R, Chen SA, Crijns HJ, et al. (HRS/EHRA/ECAS expert consensus statement on catheter and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation: recommendations for personnel, policy, procedures and follow-up. A report of the Heart Rhythm Society (HRS) Task Force on catheter and surgical ablation of atrial fibrillation. Heart Rhythm. 2007:4(6): 816-61.

Miller JM, Zipes DP. Therapy for cardiac arrhythmias. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 33.

Review Date: 11/19/2010
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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