How is RF catheter ablation performed?

This procedure requires about two to four hours to perform. Before your procedure, anesthesia is administered to relax you and make the procedure comfortable for you. After the anesthesia has taken effect, a local anesthetic is applied to an area on your groin, and a small incision is created. Several catheters, or very thin flexible tubes, are inserted through specific blood vessels. 

Your heart specialist performing the procedure is guided by real-time X-ray images. Once the catheters are placed, the electrodes on the ends are activated to stimulate your heart, detecting areas causing the problem. This phase of treatment is called an “electrophysiology study,” or EP study. Once identified, radiofrequency energy is applied to destroy the tissue causing abnormal electrical impulses. The quantity of tissue “ablated” is minimal, only about 1/5th of an inch in size. After the area is treated, the abnormal electrical signals in your heart are no longer able to trigger the abnormal rhythm.

How long is the recovery?

After undergoing radiofrequency catheter ablation, you will be required to lie as still as possible for two to six hours to minimize the risk of excess bleeding. You will be closely monitored during this phase of your recovery. You may be discharged the same day or spend a night or two in the hospital. You may have some mild discomfort or bruising, or notice skipped heartbeats or an irregular heart rhythm as the area heals. Once fully healed, most patients can return to their lives as usual within a few days.

Why are you scheduled for radiofrequency catheter ablation?

Our heart specialists will fully explain why this procedure is right for you, what to expect during the treatment and recovery and provide you with full aftercare instructions. You may need to undergo this minimally invasive procedure if:

  • Medications have been unable to resolve your case of heart arrhythmia.
  • You have experienced side effects from heart medications.
  • You have a specific type of heart arrhythmia that is known to be successfully resolved with RF ablation. The conditions most often treated with this procedure are Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and “supraventricular tachycardia,” two heart conditions in which the heart suddenly beats much faster.
  • You are at risk of sudden cardiac arrest due to your heart arrhythmia.

After your treatment – an improved quality of life

After your radiofrequency catheter ablation, you can experience a greatly improved quality of life, able to live a normal, active life. The condition can return over time, requiring another treatment. The recurrences of arrhythmia typically appear within six months. This treatment can lead to a longer, healthier life.

Why choose San Diego Cardiac Center?

When you need to undergo a heart procedure, it stands to reason that you want to be under the care of a leading heart specialist. At San Diego Cardiac Center, we have been serving the San Diego community for four decades, and throughout our years in practice, we have remained at the forefront of the latest advances in heart medicine. We frequently offer new, groundbreaking procedures that are not available at other heart clinics in the area as a result of a clinical trial. We are equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic systems, and our entire team is dedicated to helping our patients live a happier, healthier life.

Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation FAQs:

What is the success rate of catheter ablation?

Success rates vary depending on the type of arrhythmia being treated and other factors such as the experience of the medical team. For some arrhythmias, such as certain types of atrial fibrillation, the success rate of catheter ablation in completely eliminating or significantly reducing arrhythmia episodes can be around 70-80%.

Are there any lifestyle changes needed after catheter ablation?

In some cases, lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain triggers (like caffeine or alcohol) or maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine may be recommended to help manage arrhythmia and reduce the risk of recurrence. It's essential to follow the healthcare provider's instructions regarding medications and follow-up appointments.

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