Medically Reviewed by Prabal K. Guha, MD
Flutter. Fibrillation. Tachycardia.
All three terms describe a problem, when the heart muscles aren’t receiving the proper electrical signals. The result? Erratic heart beats.
Some of the most common occur in the upper chamber of the heart – the atrium. In Atrial Fibrillation or Atrial Flutter, wayward electrical signals send the heart beating about 300 times a minute – four times the normal rate.
Some abnormal heart rhythms can be treated with medication or a change in lifestyle. Unfortunately, these treatments are not always successful.
“Luckily, there is a treatment called cardiac ablation that can be used for arrhythmias in the upper chamber of the heart,” says McLeod Electrophysiologist Dr. Prabal Guha. “It’s successful in more than 90% of patients. To fix this electrical short circuit, we need to go into the heart and eliminate the faulty or extra pulses.”
First, the patient has Electrophysiology study by placing small wires through a blood vessel into the heart to map the electrical paths and pulses.
When the problem pulses or locations are identified, tissue causing the short circuit is destroyed – returning the heart’s rhythm to normal.
The Electrophysiologist uses one of several methods to “ablate” the tissue:
On some patients, the ablation is performed while the patient is having the EP study. Other times, a patient is scheduled for the ablation at a later appointment.
During the procedure – which normally lasts 2 to 4 hours – a patient may feel some minor discomfort and light-headedness. As the procedure progresses, the patient may feel their heart beat change.
After the procedure, the patient lies flat in a recovery area for several hours and is usually sent home the same day. They’ll feel fatigue and an achy chest for a few days. They may also notice the heart adjusting to its new pattern.
Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Heart Association, Canadian Heart Rhythm Society, Heart Rhythm Society (US).