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What should you expect during a catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation?

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When undergoing a catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation, a patient can expect to receive a relaxation-promoting medication as well as a local anesthetic at the insertion site, explains WebMD. Then, the doctor inserts thin wires attached to electrodes into the heart through a vein in the neck or groin.

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In some cases, patients receive general anesthesia rather than a local anesthetic when undergoing catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation, notes WebMD. The procedure usually takes place in a hospital. After the physician directs the wires, called catheters, into the heart, the attached electrodes generate heat through the emission of radio waves. This heat breaks down the defective heart tissue responsible for the atrial fibrillation. If the atrial fibrillation is the result of abnormal impulses from a pulmonary vein rather than defective heart tissue, the procedure serves to block off the path of the impulses.

Patients usually make a quick recovery from catheter ablation but may need to remain in the hospital for one to two days following the procedure to allow the doctor to monitor heart functioning, states WebMD. The doctor may prescribe an antiarrhythmic medication to help keep the patient's heart rhythms stable for a few months after the procedure. Patients sometimes experience heart palpitations while the heart tissue heals.

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