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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.

What is ablation?

Used to treat irregular heartbeats, cardiac ablation uses heat or cold energy to block abnormal electrical signals and restore a regular heartbeat. The scarring in the intended areas helps to prevent your heart from producing irregular heartbeats. A cardiologist or cardiac surgeon will thoroughly evaluate your heart condition before deciding which type of ablation procedure is best for you.

Conditions ablation treats

Types of ablation procedures

  • Catheter: This is the most common type of heart ablation. It is a minimally invasive procedure in which a cardiologist threads a catheter through a vein, typically in the groin, and guides it into your heart.
  • Surgical: Cardiac surgeons perform an open-heart ablation called a maze procedure while doing other heart surgery. If you need another heart surgery with ablation, this option would be recommended by your physician.
  • Hybrid: If you don’t need open-heart surgery, the surgeon can perform a mini maze procedure, making small incisions in the chest and inserting a catheter to treat the arrhythmia-causing signals.

Types of pulmonary embolism

  • Acute pulmonary embolism is the sudden onset of symptoms caused by a blood clot in the lungs.
  • Chronic pulmonary embolism, the least common type, is caused by residual blood clots left along the vessel walls in the lungs, even after previous treatments.
  • Subacute pulmonary embolism develops over the course of 2-12 weeks, has a higher mortality rate than other types, and is also more prone to becoming treatment-resistant.

Eligibility requirements for an ablation procedure

  • People who cannot undergo cardioversion, a procedure that uses electrical shocks to restore heart rhythm. One type of cardioversion uses a specific medication that some people are not able to take.
  • Professional athletes, or anyone who performs intense exercise, have an increased risk of developing AFib. However, AFib medication can affect performance, so ablation is the treatment option preferred by athletes.
  • People with heart disease, especially those at high risk for AFib complications like cardiac arrest, would be recommended to have this procedure by their physician.

Benefits of ablation

  • Restores normal heart rhythms
  • Reduce symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, or weakness
  • Typically removes the need for antiarrhythmic medication

Ablation risk factors

  • Arrhythmias
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to the vein from the sheath and catheter
  • Narrowing of the veins that carry blood between your lungs and heart
  • Exposure to radiation during catheter ablation
  • Infection or bleeding
  • Stroke or heart attack

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