When certain arrhythmias in the heart do not respond well to medication, radiofrequency ablation is a viable option. Minimally invasive, the procedure involves heart catheterization to send a burst of radiofrequency energy to selectively destroy heart tissue with abnormal electrical pathways that are causing the arrhythmias. MDCA cardiologists specialize in complex ablation procedures to treat ventricular tachycardia, supraventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation and prior ablation failures. They also perform epicardial ablation to treat arrhythmias possibly stemming from the endocardium of the left ventricle.
During the procedure, a thin and flexible catheter enters the body, usually in the groin area, and is gently guided through an artery and into the heart with the help of x-ray fluoroscopy. On the tip of the catheter is a sensor that records the heart’s electrical activity and that can deliver radiofrequency energy to perform the ablation. The radiofrequency heats and destroys the area of the heart with the “short circuit” or where heart cells emit the abnormal electrical signals, thus eliminating that electrical pathway and stopping the arrhythmia.
Radiofrequency ablation is performed after an electrophysiology study (EPS), which identifies the heart tissue emanating the abnormal electrical impulses. The ablation procedure works well for patients suffering from the very fast abnormal heart rhythms of atrioventricular nodal reciprocating tachycardia (AVNRT), which is a certain type of supraventricular tachycardia. It’s also effective in treating Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome – a condition with an abnormal electrical connection between atria and ventricles.
While mostly a successful procedure, some patients will need to undergo a second radiofrequency ablation. Risks include bleeding and damage to an artery from the catheter, clots breaking free to the brain and causing a stroke, and damage to more heart tissue than necessary which could result in the permanent use of a pacemaker. Other risks include heart puncture, inflammation of the heart sac, and pulmonary embolism.