patient resources

frequently asked questions about ablation

Who should consider ablation? Patients who:

  • failed medication treatment in the past
  • are still experiencing symptoms
  • have had adverse reactions to medications
  • chose to not use medication therapy
  • have failed cardioversions in the past

How do I prepare for catheter ablation?

Your cardiologist will require some routine tests such as an ECG, X-rays, blood tests, and transesophageal echocardiogram prior to your ablation. In general, you will be asked to not eat or drink anything after midnight prior to your procedure. Your cardiologist will also advise you about continuing or stopping any medications you are taking.

What should I expect during catheter ablation?

An electrophysiologist (EP), a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythms, performs the one- to three-hour catheter ablation. During the procedure, you’ll receive fluids and any necessary medication through an intravenous (IV) line inserted in your arm.

A local anesthetic will be applied to the site where the ablation catheters will be inserted. In most cases, the major blood vessel in your groin is used for catheterization. Blood vessels in your arm, chest or neck area may also be used for catheterization.

Our electrophysiologist will carefully maneuver the catheter(s) through the blood vessel to your heart to map the abnormal electrical pathways in the heart tissue. When the targeted area is located, the catheter delivers either radiofrequency or cryoenergy to destroy the abnormal electrical pathway that is causing the atrial fibrillation.

When the procedure is completed, the catheters are removed and pressure is applied to the catheter insertion site to prevent bleeding. 

What is the recovery like?

You may feel some minor soreness in your chest or bruising or soreness at the insertion site. When you return home, you may have to limit your activity for a couple of days, but most patients return to their normal routines quickly.

General Pacemaker/ICD Frequently Asked Questions

how does an implantable pacemaker/cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) work?

Most new ICDs can act as both pacemakers and defibrillators. An ICD monitors your heart rhythm and will deliver an electric pulse to your heart to stop a fast rhythm. All ICDs have backup pacing for rhythms that are too slow.

Do these devices replace heart medications?

We often use devices in conjunction with medications. In general, you will not be able to stop all your heart medications; however, your doctor may need to adjust your medications post-implantation.

Do cell phones interfere with pacemakers or ICDs?

Cellphones available in the United States (less than 3 watts) generally do not appear to interfere with or damage pacemakers. However, it’s best to avoid keeping your cell phone in your breast pocket on the side of the device. It’s probably better to use the phone on the opposite ear, as well.

What to Expect from the Pacemaker/ICD Procedure

What should I expect during pacemaker therapy surgery?

The procedure to implant a pacemaker/ICD is typically done under local anesthesia but can change based on your health and the device implanted. It does not require open-heart surgery, and most people go home within 24 hours.

Will I feel or see the pacemaker/ICD?

At first, you may be aware of the device and see a slight bump in the skin. The device is very small, about the size of two small silver dollars stacked on top of each other, and weighs about an ounce or less. ICDs are typically slightly larger in size compared to a pacemaker. If the ICD sends a shock to the heart or “fires,” the person will feel this as a jolt or kick in the chest.

Do pacemakers/ICDs need to be adjusted periodically?

If your medical condition or lifestyle changes, your device may need to be adjusted. Most adjustments are done noninvasively using a device called a programmer. This is a specialized computer that communicates with the pacemaker/ICD using magnetic signals via a “wand” or loop placed over the device.

When do I have to replace my pacemaker/ICD?

Most devices will last at least 5 to 7 years, after which the battery will need to be replaced. In general, replacing a pacemaker generator may be done on an outpatient basis.

Will I have to change my lifestyle?

After implantation of a pacemaker/ICD you will be able to participate in the activities you enjoy. Your doctor will have more information on activities you may need to avoid, but typically you can resume your normal daily activities after full recovery from surgery.

Can I exercise with a pacemaker?

You may be able to enjoy exercise with your pacemaker or ICD, but check with your doctor first.

Can I travel with my pacemaker or ICD?

Yes, you can travel by air with your device. Airport security detectors are generally safe, but let airport security staff know you have a pacemaker/ICD. You should carry your device identification card with you at all times for safety purposes and especially when you travel. Airport security may ask you to present your card.