Heart Ablation Procedures

Look up a term in The Heart Center glossary.

An ablation procedure is a non-surgical treatment for people with certain abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia). An arrhythmia can sometimes be controlled by medication.  But if medicine is not successful, or if the side effects of the medicine or taking the medicine itself become troublesome, your doctor may recommend ablation.  

The ablation procedure involves placing a long flexible wire (catheter) through blood vessels and into the heart to get rid of (or ablate) the precise area of the heart causing the arrhythmia.  This area can be removed using either radiofrequency (RF) ablation or cryoablation. The doctor will choose which method to use based on the area of the heart where the arrhythmias are located.

  • Radiofrequency uses a high-energy source to get rid of the area.
  • Cryoablation uses very cold temperature to do the same.

An electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in the treatment of arrhythmias of the heart, can determine if ablation is indicated. Additional tests may also help determine if ablation is needed, and may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Holter monitor
  • Event recorder
  • Exercise test  
  • Electrophysiology study (EP study)

This procedure is not painful, but there may be some back discomfort from lying on your back during the test, or at the sites for the catheters, usually in the upper legs. All catheters are removed when the procedure is completed, and small bandages are placed on the catheter insertion sites. Patients are moved to a monitoring recovery area until fully awake. Parents can visit at this time.

In most cases, patients are able to go home on the day of the procedure.  Sometimes an overnight stay in the hospital may be recommended. 

Because it is important to be able to reproduce the arrhythmia during the procedure, the patient may need to be off medications used to treat the arrhythmia for the test. The doctor will let you know how to stop them before the procedure.

Your doctor will give you instructions before you leave the hospital; however, in general, patients can return to school or work the next day.

To protect the catheter insertion sites, patients cannot swim or take a bath for the first 48 hours after the procedure. It is OK to take showers.

The doctor will usually want to see patients two weeks after the procedure.  Further follow-up is discussed at that time.

Electrophysiology studies and ablation procedures are done in Cincinnati Children's Cardiac Electrophysiology Laboratory. For more information, contact Cincinnati Children's Heart Institute.


Last Updated 09/2014