Ablation for Cardiac Rhythm Problems

Ablation procedures can be a very effective treatment for cardiac rhythm disturbances that involve the heart beating too fast where the mechanism is in the top two chambers of the heart. These procedures typically work best in younger patients, that is in patients younger than 70 years old.

These procedures are done under local anesthetic and sedation. They involve lying on an x-ray table whilst tubes are placed into the vein at the top of the leg and fed along the veins to the heart. These tubes have electrodes on them which can be used both for recording and also for ablating [heating up tissue to stop it functioning].

The type of arrhythmia dictates where in the heart the ablation is needed and the risks involved. Most of these procedures are very low risk, and the patient can go home the next day. They are very successful for fast regular heartbeats that are caused by extra circuits in the heart. In addition, these procedures also a very low risk.

In the case of atrial fibrillation, the procedures are significantly less effective, as there is a tendency for the heart to go back into atrial fibrillation over subsequent years. Also in atrial fibrillation ablation, the risks are also slightly greater, although still small, than some other forms of ablation. However, atrial fibrillation ablation is a well-recognised treatment for patients and recent evidence suggests better long-term health outcomes in people who are kept in sinus rhythm.

It has recently been found that success rates are higher in patients who are not overweight or who lose weight. This is thought to be because fat is laid down in the heart muscle of the atria and that this disrupts their electrical activity. Lifestyle modification is very important in patients with atrial fibrillation.

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