I’m getting a cardiac ablation, what does that mean?

Published: Saturday, May 8, 2021

Ablation is a fairly common type of medical procedure that involves carefully regulated destruction of tissue using surgery or minimally-invasive techniques, like a cardiac ablation. Interestingly enough, ablations can be performed for a number of reasons outside of heart health, including the removal of lesions or warts for aesthetic reasons, the removal of astigmatism in the eyes or even the removal of excess uterine tissue in women who have endometriosis.

But in the world of heart and vascular health, cardiac ablations are typically used to treat heart rhythm issues, also known as arrhythmias.

So, if you’ve been scheduled to have an ablation, or you’re curious to learn more about this common procedure, read on as Shalabh Chandra, MD, an electrophysiologist with Georgia Heart Institute, answers some of the most common questions.

Q: What Is Cardiac Ablation?

A: To put it simply, an ablation is technically any procedure that cauterizes (and hence destroys) the tissue that is causing an issue. A cardiac ablation, then, is a procedure that finds and destroys short circuits in the heart’s electrical system that are responsible for the arrhythmia. Once a small part of the circuit is destroyed – this prevents arrhythmias from recurring.

Cardiac ablation is used when a person is experiencing abnormal heart rhythms, where the heart beats too fast or irregularly. When this occurs, we perform ablation for heart issues that are contributing to heart rhythm issues.

Once the appropriate tissue is ablated, the heart typically begins beating normally again.

Q: When Is Cardiac Ablation Used?

A: While ablations are commonly used to treat abnormal heart rhythms, it isn’t used for every arrhythmia.

In many cases, medication can be used to effectively treat arrhythmia. But some patients don’t respond well to medication for one reason or another, making an ablation the best and most effective option for their heart health.

Another thing to note is that there are multiple types of arrhythmias, and some respond more effectively to medication or other therapies. One type, called supraventricular tachycardia, is the result of abnormal conduction fibers (short circuit) in the heart and is most effectively treated with ablation. Similarly, atrial fibrillation is also treated effectively with an ablation, especially when medication doesn’t work well.

Q: Are There Different Types of Cardiac Ablation?

A: There are two methods for performing cardiac ablation—catheter ablation using radiofrequency (heat cauterization) and catheter ablation using cryoablation (freeze cauterization). All these types of ablations are provided at Georgia Heart Institute with our experienced team of electrophysiologists via minimally-invasive techniques.

During catheter ablation, one or more thin flexible tubes known as a catheter are inserted into the groin and are guided up to the heart. Arrhythmia circuit is then studied in detail with 3D mapping. Once the ideal location for the ablation is identified, we use targeted radiofrequency or cryo energy to destroy disruptive tissue.

We specifically use cryoablations for atrial fibrillation with a specialized catheter that includes a cryoballoon. It then uses extremely cold temperatures to destroy abnormal tissue safely and easily. In fact, cryoablation is one of the most cutting-edge forms of treatment for arrhythmias.

Depending on your unique heart health needs, your medical provider will recommend the best ablation to safely and effectively treat your condition, which may be used in conjunction with other therapies.

Exceptional Care for Heart Rhythm Disorders

With a dedicated team of highly-trained electrophysiologists and experts, Georgia Heart Institute can effectively treat nearly any type of heart rhythm disorder. Whether you need specialized testing and diagnostics or a long-term treatment option, we can provide the care you need to keep your heart in rhythm. Get started today!