Cardiac ablation

Almost everything you need to know about cardiac ablation

In 2014, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Heart Rhythm Society (in conjunction with the Society of Thoracic Surgeons), completely updated and overhauled their guidelines for atrial fibrillation.

Amongst the changes that they made, some of the most significant had to do with the value of cardiac ablation and whether or not it should continue to be used as an effective solution for eliminating AFib conditions altogether. Though the overwhelming majority of the changes made to these guidelines were rather subtle and straightforward, some of the ones that had to do with this particular treatment approach were a little bit more complex and potentially treatment altering.

If you’ve been thinking about moving forward with ablation surgery, but aren’t quite sure that it is the right move for you; you’re definitely going to want to pay close attention to the information that we have outlined below. Though the information contained within this quick guide isn’t supposed to be considered or construed as medical advice by any stretch of the imagination, you should be able to take advantage of the details that we’ve included below to help you better communicate with your medical specialist so that you know you are always making the right move for your short and long term health.

Anytime you’re talking about surgery on your heart, (which is exactly what ablation for atrial fibrillation is, you are talking about taking a handful of very specific and usually almost completely mitigated) risks, so it’s up to you to make sure that you’ve done all of your due diligence and research before you dive right in. This information is intended to help you carry out your research with due diligence and provide you with some answers that you might not have uncovered otherwise.

Better understanding atrial fibrillation

Before we dive headfirst into the meat and potatoes of ablation in regards to whether or not it is a reliable solution to resolving your cardiac fibrillation issues, it is of the utmost importance that you understand exactly what you’re up against in the first place.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common and serious heart arrhythmias that you could come down with, and it has everything to do with irregular electrical impulses that cause your heart to go a little bit haywire as far as rhythm and rate are concerned. Anytime the heart rhythm or rate is distubed, it increase the potential risk of blood clot formation throughout your cardiovascular system – and if those blood clots make it up to your brain, you run the risk of some seriously dangerous and potentially deadly things occurring.

Millions of Americans (and millions more all over the planet) have to fight through real fibrillation conditions on a day to day basis, but with a variety of different solutions available – including ablation surgery options like the ones that we are going to mention in just a moment – you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Especially since the changes to the guidelines have kicked in, giving you every opportunity to leverage new and advanced solutions to stop AFib right in its tracks.

Changes to the 2014 guidelines for AFib include overhauls of ablation solutions

The traditional method of ablation designed to resolve atrial fibrillation issues included damaging and destroying small amounts of tissue in the heart (right on the muscle itself) to eliminate the potential for a regular electrical signals to be effortlessly transmuted across the heart, electrical signal that would have caused AFib conditions in the first place.

While ablation is an incredibly successful solution for stopping AFib issues right in their tracks, the truth of the matter is ablation is (and always has been) a bit of a risky proposition. After all, you are quite literally talking about damaging the heart and destroying small parts of it to create the scar tissue in the first place. Then you have to worry about whether or not the scarring is going to be significant enough to resolve AFib issues without causing issues of its own.

This is why the new 2014 guidelines encourage doctors to take advantage of new technology and solutions that leverage decades and decades of ablation research, definitely encouraging them to use new “radio frequency” ablation that causes the same kind of scar tissue to form without ever actually having to destroy parts of the heart along the way.

This is just one of the most technologically advanced ablation solutions available right now, but it’s definitely one of the most promising. After all, any time you are able to take advantage of a minimally invasive solution over a very invasive solution (especially when you are looking to crack open the rib cage and scar your heart physically), you are definitely taking a major step in the right direction.

Now, there are certainly some downsides and drawbacks to radiofrequency ablation when looking to treat AFib. For one thing, it’s really only effective when you’re talking about non-valvular issues that aren’t caused by a valve disease. Secondly, it is still a pretty young technology that isn’t exactly as well understood as most people would like it to be by now.

Even still, the new 2014 AFib guidelines are definitely emphasizing the use of this kind of ablation, while at the same time encouraging medical professionals to pioneer and innovate other ablation solutions that are even less invasive and risky than this one.

Better understanding the cardiac ablation surgery process

Of course, if your doctor has recommended that you move forward with an ablation solution, it’s probably a good idea that you familiarize yourself with the overall process so that you know exactly what you’re getting into.

All ablations are going to take place in a hospital laboratory, at the hands of the very best surgeons and heart specialists available, so you’ll always be able to trust that you are in the best possible position to come out on top of this surgical intervention. Everything is going to be described to you before you go under the knife, right from the beginning of the process all the way through to your recovery months and months down the line.

The process (the actual process) of ablation is going to begin with a very mild sedative that allows you to better relax and unwind. From there, you will either be knocked out cold or be given a local anesthetic so that a catheter can be guided to your heart through a small incision.

A live feed of x-ray images is going to allow the doctor to effortlessly and methodically maneuver that catheter to your heart without bumping into any other vitals, and once he has reached his destination, the doctor will begin to attach very small electrodes to your heart that will begin the “scarring” process.

After the electrical diodes have figured out where the irregular electrical signals are coming from and delivered their payload of electricity to scar the heart, the catheter will then be retracted (along with the electrodes themselves) just as carefully and as methodically as it was guided into place.

It isn’t at all uncommon for this procedure to last for hours or more (sometimes considerably longer than that, even), which is why a number of people request that they are put completely under so that they won’t be tempted to wiggle about in the middle of the procedure.

Your heart is going to be live monitored throughout the process by a dedicated technician to make sure that you aren’t ever put in a dangerous or potentially risky situation, with that dedicated technician reporting directly to the head surgeon and physician in charge to assess them of the situation as the surgery proceeds.

Most of the time, the process is incredibly painless (especially if you elect to be knocked out cold for the entire process), though there is also the possibility to feel a bit of burning when the catheter is first inserted and as it is retracted. The local anesthesia or the general anesthesia should be able to knock out those symptoms for you pretty quickly though.

Closing thoughts

All things considered, cardiac ablation isn’t exactly the first choice for many to move ahead with when it’s time to confront their AFib issues.

However, if you are at the end of your rope, and really want to be done with AFib altogether, your doctor may recommend that you procced with this surgical intervention so that you’re able to lead the kind of happy and healthy lifestyle that you’re after.

There are some risks associated with this surgical intervention (like any other), but as long as you talk out your issues and concerns with your GP and your heart specialist, you’re likely going to be able to decide on a proper course of action that allows you to get back to being in the best shape of your life – without regular heart issues caused by AFib – faster than you ever thought possible.