What is Cryoablation?
A Cardiac Catheter Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure performed by Electrophysiologist Cardiologist to target and treat areas of the heart that are contributing to abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias). There are two common techniques, Radiofrequency Ablation, and Cryoablation.
Catheter Ablation uses small diameter catheters (like thin wires) which are passed into the heart usually from the vein in the leg. The catheter is guided to the specific site in heart where the abnormal electrical signals have been arising. Once in location, the ablation catheter is able to deliver energy to specific sites in the heart, deliberately causing targeted damage to the muscle / nerve bundles which are contributing to arrhythmia. This very targeted ablation does not damage the surrounding heart muscle.
An alternative to Radiofrequency Ablation is Cryoablation. Instead of using electrical heat energy, cryoablation uses freezing cold energy. Very cold liquid/gas at the tip of the catheter causes a freeze burn of the tissue in direct contact with the catheter tip.
In the weeks that follow after the ablation, the damaged heart muscle heals with fibrous scar tissue which creates a barrier to stop the abnormal electrical signals that cause atrial fibrillation.
How do I Prepare?
Your usual medication routine should be continued in general, however medications that affect the heart rhythm and heart rate may interfere with the procedure and might need to be stopped. You should discuss this with your cardiologist.
In most cases you will be required to fast (no food or drink) for six to eight hours prior to the procedure. You can take your usual medications with a small sip of water early on the morning of the procedure. You should discuss this with your cardiologist.
What Should I Expect?
Before the Procedure
- You will usually be given a general anaesthetic at the start of the procedure.
- You will also have a local anaesthetic in the groin area where the catheters are inserted.
During the Procedure
- An Electrophysiology Study is usually performed first, to create a map of the electrical activity in your heart.
- The ablation catheters are inserted into the femoral vein at the right groin, and are fed up to the heart.
- The ablation catheter is steered into position in direct contact with the heart tissue causing the arrhythmia. The Ablation is performed for a required duration on this position. Additional positions may be required, depending on the electrical activity.
- Ablation is usually a lengthy procedure, often taking several hours.
- At the end of the procedure, the electrical catheters are removed, and pressure is applied at the groin to stop bleeding. Sometimes sutures (stitches) in the skin may also be required.
After the Procedure
- You will spend several hours in a recovery room.
- The team will monitor your vital signs, such as your heart rate and breathing.
- You will need to lie flat for several hours after the procedure. You should not bend your legs. This will help prevent bleeding.
- Most people spend the night in the hospital.
- You may feel some chest tightness after the procedure.
- Your doctor will review which medicines you need to take, including blood thinners.
Returning to Daily Life
- Áfter discharge, follow all the instructions your doctor or nurses give you for medications, exercise, diet and wound care.
- You may have a bruise in the groin area.
- Most people can return to normal activities within a few days after leaving the hospital.
- Avoid heavy physical activity for a few days.
- Avoid high intensity exercise for 1 week.
- Avoid driving for 24 hours after the procedure.
- Attend your follow-up appointments.