Radio frequency catheter ablation is a medical treatment that uses electrical energy to destroy or ablate tissues in the heart that are causing rhythm disturbances. Ablative therapy is used to treat Wolff Parkinson White syndrome, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT); atrial flutter; atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT); unifocal atrial tachycardia; atrial fibrillation; ventricular tachycardia (VT); symptomatic monomorphic VT; and AV junction ablation for poorly controlled ventricular rates (usually as a last resort to control patients who have atrial fibrillation with uncontrolled ventricular rates refractory to medical therapy).
The procedure involves inserting catheters (long wires) in the groin perhaps also the side of the neck, the elbow or the area under the collarbone. 3 to 5 catheters are often used simultaneously, in order to trigger and assess the exact location of the rhythm disturbance. Once catheters are in the veins, x-ray is used as they are moved toward the heart and positioned in strategic locations along the heart’s conduction system.
By deliberately triggering an electrical disturbance, and then analysing the recordings of this disturbance, it is possible to locate which tissues in the heart are responsible for the electrical disturbance. This process is called mapping of the region of the heart that is responsible for the abnormal rhythm. After identifying the abnormal region, a special ablation catheter is then maneuvered so that the catheter tip is in contact with the abnormal tissue. At this point, radio frequency energy is turned on and applied directly on the abnormal heart tissue to eliminated (ablated) the region that is causing the abnormal heart rhythm. The delivery of radio frequency energy causes the tissue in direct contact with the electrode at the tip of the special ablation catheter to be heated. The mapping and ablation procedures continues until the electrical disturbance can no longer be elicited by the catheters. The procedure usually takes 2 to 4 hours.
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