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Catheter Ablation


An ablation is a medical procedure used to treat an arrhythmia (heart rhythm problem). An arrhythmia is often caused by cells in your heart that are not working as they should. A catheter ablation procedure destroys the cells that are causing the problem.

At Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute of Greater Sacramento, we offer the latest minimally invasive tools to help our patients recover faster with less pain and better results.

What to Expect During Catheter Ablation

Catheter ablation uses thin, flexible wires called electrode catheters to find and destroy (ablate) problem cells. In most cases, catheter ablation is done in an electrophysiology (EP) lab. It often takes two to four hours, and sometimes longer. You'll receive medication to prevent pain. Medication will also help you relax or sleep during the procedure. Here's how the procedure is done:

  • Your doctor will perform an electrophysiology study (EPS) to find the problem cells. During this study, the doctor tries to induce (start) your arrhythmia. An electrical map of the heart is then created. This shows the type of arrhythmia you have and where the problem is. Using the map as a guide, the doctor knows where to ablate.
  • Once the EPS shows where the problem is, your doctor moved an electrode catheter to that area. Energy is sent through the catheter to destroy the problem cells.
  • After ablating the problem cells, the doctor tries to reinduce (restart) your arrhythmia. If a fast rhythm can't be induced, the ablation is a success. But if a fast rhythm does start again, further ablation may be needed.

When the procedure is finished:

  • The catheters are taken out of your body
  • Pressure is applied to the puncture sites to help them close
  • No stitches are needed
  • You're then taken to a recovery room to rest

Preparing for Catheter Ablation

Before your catheter ablation, you will meet with the electrophysiologist (specially trained heart doctor) who will do the procedure. He or she will tell you how to prepare for the procedure. You will likely be told to stop taking all heart rhythm medications for a few days before the procedure. Follow your doctor's instructions. Also:

  • Tell the doctor about all prescription and over-the-counter medications you take. This includes herbs, supplements, and vitamins. It also includes daily medications such as insulin or blood thinners. If you are allergic to any medications, tell the doctor.
  • Have any routine tests, such as blood tests, as recommended.
  • Don't eat or drink anything 12 hours before the procedure.

Find a Doctor 

Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and a referral to a heart care specialist. Call 855.623.2734 to find a doctor. Or use our Find a Doctor tool.