Treatment for an Irregular Heart Beat
Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is an irregular, frequently rapid heart beat originating in the atria (top chambers of the heart). Instead of the normal situation in which a single impulse travels in an orderly fashion through the heart, in atrial fibrillation many impulses begin simultaneously and spread through the atria, causing a rapid and disorganized heartbeat.
What is Cardiac Ablation?
The goal of cardiac ablation is to eliminate areas of the heart that are generating the abnormal heart rhythms causing your arrhythmia. During this procedure, the electrophysiologist performs a detailed electrical map of the heart to determine the specific sites that are causing your abnormal heart rhythms. He or she then guides an ablating catheter to the sites and treats the defective tissue.
What to Expect During a Cardiac Ablation
- You will be awake during the procedure; however, you will be given sedation to make you drowsy.
- Your heart rate, rhythm, and blood pressure will be continuously monitored.
- The area where the sheath will be inserted will be numbed with a local anesthetic medication. While the sheath is being inserted you may feel slight pressure.
- Electrode catheters used for cardiac ablation are long, flexible wires that are inserted through the sheath and threaded to the heart. The Electrophysiology Lab is equipped with special imaging equipment that allows the physician to view the catheters as they are threaded towards the heart. While the catheters are moving through your body you should feel no pain.
- The electrophysiologist performs a detailed electrical mapping of the heart to determine the sites causing your abnormal heart rhythms.
- An ablating catheter is then guided to the abnormal areas. Radio frequency energy is passed through this specialized catheter to treat the abnormal tissue and render it electrically silent.
- When the electromagnetic energy is applied you may feel a very warm sensation.
- The electrophysiologist may stimulate your heart with tiny electrical impulses at different times throughout the procedure.
- The catheters and sheath are removed when the study is completed. Pressure will be place on the sheath site, and once the bleeding has stopped, a dressing (bandage) will be applied.
- The estimated time for cardiac ablation is two to six hours, depending on how many areas need to be treated.
Atrial Fibrillation Surgery
Surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation is considered when:
- Medical therapy does not effectively control or correct atrial fibrillation
- Medications for atrial fibrillation are not tolerated
- Anticoagulants (coumadin/warfarin) cannot be taken
- Blood clots, including strokes, occur
Surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation also may be
considered when surgery is needed to treat a coexisting heart condition,
such as valve or coronary artery disease.
New York Methodist surgeons use the Maze procedure to cure atrial fibrillation by interrupting the electrical impulses that cause the abnormal rhythm. This procedure uses special energy sources, such as radiofrequency energy, to create scars in the atrial wall. This scar tissue forms a blockage that prevents the abnormal electrical impulses from passing through the heart. In so doing Maze corrects all the major problems associated with atrial fibrillation:
- it stops the atrial arrhythmia
- it restores normal rhythm between the atria and the ventricles
- it preserves the ability of the atria to contract on its own.
Learn more about cardiac ablation by calling 718.780.7830.
Learn more about atrial fibrillation surgery by calling 718.780.7700.