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How is cardiac ablation surgery performed?

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Quick Answer

A cardiac ablation is performed by threading a catheter into the heart through a small incision in either the groin, arm or neck, explains MedlinePlus. Once electrodes are placed to determine the dysfunctional areas, electrical energy is pulsed through the catheter, causing scar tissue that stops the heart-rhythm problems.

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Full Answer

Cardiac ablation is a relatively lengthy procedure, lasting anywhere from four to eight hours, explains Cleveland Clinic. While the patient receives intravenous sedation and pain medicine during this time, he may experience a burning sensation when medication is injected to numb the catheter insertion site. A patient may also feel burning or other discomfort when the energy pulses are applied to the heart muscle. Finally, patients may be aware of a faster or stronger heartbeat when the doctor uses a pacemaker device to increase the heart rate. Patients may always ask for more pain-relieving medication during the procedure.

Risks and complications of cardiac ablation include pain, bleeding and infection at the catheter-insertion incision site, states Healthline. Other more serious complications include blood clots, damage to the heart valves or arteries, heart attack and fluid buildup around the heart.

Catheter ablation is performed under conscious sedation to treat cardiac arrhythmia, also called irregular or abnormal heart rhythm, according to Cleveland Clinic. It can treat AV nodal re-entrant tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, accessory pathway arrhythmia and ventricular tachycardia.

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