What is a Cardiac Ablation?

Ablation is the use of heat to vaporize abnormal tissue or restore normal functioning. Catheter ablation is a procedure in which a thin, flexible tube is inserted into a vein in the upper thigh and threaded through the bloodstream to the abnormal area. In cardiac care, the catheter is guided to the heart where radiofrequency energy (radio waves) is applied through the catheter. Catheter ablation is most often used in cardiac care to treat atrial fibrillation and some other types of arrhythmia or heart rhythm disorders. Microwave ablation is another form of the procedure.

In the case of atrial fibrillation (AF), the procedure is called focal atrial fibrillation ablation. This is a minimally invasive procedure that replaces open heart surgery for some patients who have chronic atrial fibrillation. (A similar procedure can also be performed during bypass surgery). AF is caused by a “short circuit” of the natural electrical system that begins each heartbeat. Instead of a normal, regular heartbeat, electrical impulses of the heart are chaotic or disorganized. In addition to symptoms that may include dizziness and shortness of breath, AF patients are at high risk of heart failure and stroke.

AF is set off by an area in the heart muscle that triggers an abnormal heart beat. New computerized technology has improved the mapping of AF trigger points. A mapping catheter is inserted into the heart and the heart is electrically stimulated to produce the abnormal heart rhythm. The trigger point is thus located for destruction using an ablation catheter, thereby restoring normal heart rhythm.