Catheter Ablation | AT Ablation

Catheter ablation for atrial tachycardia (see diagram). Atrial tachycardia can often be cured by a catheter ablation. This procedure involves threading a number of fine wires (electrode catheters) into the heart, usually via the groin veins. Using these electrodes the specialist can study the pattern of conduction of the heart impulse and try to start up an episode of tachycardia. If the abnormal focus can be tracked down, a number of small burns are made to destroy it and prevent the tachycardia from recurring. Each of these burns is around the same size as a cigarette burn and causes little or no discomfort. If the procedure appears to have been successful, the specialist will try to make sure by seeing whether the atrial tachycardia can be re-started. Permanent success can only be judged by seeing how a patient does in the long term, and a repeat procedure is sometimes needed.

Catheter ablation for atrial tachycardia is generally quite safe, but as with any procedure there are small risks attached. Minor risks include bleeding from the groin, fleeting pains due to heart inflammation in the first few weeks after the procedure. More significant complications occur in approximately 1% of patients and include heart perforation, collapsed lung, a blood clot in the lung, and damage to the normal electrical system of the heart requiring a pacemaker. Though these complications are potentially serious, they can usually be treated without significant long-term problems. The risk of untreatable complications (heart attack, stroke, death) is extremely small, and probably less than 1 in 500.

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