Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates

Radiofrequency Ablation

Catheter-based radiofrequency ablation (also called catheter ablation) is a procedure used to treat certain types of arrhythmias. It involves scarring or destroying tissues in the heart that trigger the abnormal heart rhythm.

» Why is radiofrequency ablation performed?
» What happens in a radiofrequency ablation procedure?
» What can I expect after radiofrequency ablation?

Why is radiofrequency ablation performed?

Your doctor may recommend radiofrequency ablation if you have a certain type of abnormally fast heartbeat (tachyarrhythmia) and your condition has not responded to medication.

» Back to top

What happens in a radiofrequency ablation procedure?

Radiofrequency ablation is performed in a special operating room called a cardiac catheterization laboratory (“cath lab”), and the entire procedure lasts between 3 and 6 hours.

  1. First you’re given some medication to help you relax; then your doctor numbs the site where the catheter will be inserted (either in the arm or in the groin) with a local anesthetic.
  2. The doctor uses a needle to make a small hole in your arm or groin and inserts a tapered tube called a sheath into the hole.
  3. Several catheters are inserted through the sheath into your blood vessel and navigated to the correct place in your heart, guided by an imaging method called fluoroscopy.
    • Some catheters contain electrodes to stimulate your heart and record its electrical activity so that your doctor can find the source of the irregular heartbeat.
    • One catheter is specially designed to deliver electrical energy to a specific area.
  4. When your doctor locates the source of the arrhythmia, a special machine delivers energy through the catheter to create a scar line, also called an ablation line. The scar line creates a barrier between the damaged tissue and the surrounding healthy tissue, which prevents abnormal electrical signals from traveling to the rest of the heart and causing arrhythmias.
  5. When the ablation is complete, your doctor removes the catheters and the sheath and closes the opening in your blood vessel.

» Back to top

What can I expect after radiofrequency ablation?

After the procedure, you will be moved to a special care unit, where you will be asked to remain still for 4 to 6 hours while the catheter insertion site closes. Your care team will check your blood pressure, temperature and other vital signs regularly.

Before you leave the hospital, your doctor will give you specific instructions to follow during your recovery at home, including how much activity you can do, when and how to take your medications, and how to care for the catheter insertion site. Be sure to follow his or her instructions closely, and feel free to call the office if you have any questions.

» Back to top

Learn about other catheter-based procedures:

For more information about Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-441-1100 or 888-361-4375, or contact us online.