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Cardiac Ablation at Drexel Cardiology

Outline Image of the Heart

Radiofrequency ablation is a procedure used to control or cure specific kinds of cardiac arrhythmias. It destroys the heart cells that generate the abnormal impulses.

The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, characterized by rapid beating of the upper chambers of the heart. Until recently, atrial fibrillation was treated with medications alone and was difficult to control.

Drexel electrophysiologists are highly experienced in the application of radiofrequency ablation and advocate its use as a standard treatment for arrhythmias over medical therapy. For those patients who have a poor treatment response to medication, radiofrequency ablation is an attractive alternative.

We have had low complication rates and excellent outcomes in the use of radiofrequency ablation – achieving a 90 percent success rate in some cases when ablation is repeated or combined with antiarrhythmic medications.

This success has led to our involvement in prominent national research studies such as the Catheter Ablation versus Antiarrhythmic Drug Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation Trial (CABANA) which compares anti-arrhythmic drug therapy and catheter ablation for patients with atrial fibrillation.

About Atrial Fibrillation

In atrial fibrillation, the electrical impulse of the heart is not regular. The atria are contracting very quickly and not in a regular pattern. This makes the ventricles beat abnormally, leading to an irregular (and usually fast) pulse. As a result, the heart may be working harder and may no longer be able to pump enough blood. The incidence of atrial fibrillation increases with age and is a major cause of stroke.

Cardiac Ablation Procedure at Drexel Cardiology

To perform cardiac ablation, electrophysiologists guide an electrode-tipped catheter to the precise area of the heart that is producing the disruptive electronic signals. Extremely hot or cold temperatures (cryoablation) are applied to the area, destroying a small amount of tissue at this specific site. This can stop the irregular heartbeats or make them easier to control with medication.

Cryoablation enhances patient safety by allowing electrophysiologists to perform cryomapping or site testing. It produces a temporary electrical blockage, so that our doctors can be certain that the exact area responsible for the irregular impulses has been located. If so, the area is permanently disabled. Intracardiac echocardiography is used to monitor the procedure from start to finish.

For catheter ablation procedures, the patient typically receives mild sedation with local anesthesia and experiences little or no discomfort. Individuals with more complex cases may require the use of general anesthesia. Following an ablation, patients can typically return to their usual activities within a few days. After the four- to six-hour procedure, patients recuperate in a special care unit where the heart rate is carefully monitored. Patients are also required to lie flat for two to three hours so that veins can begin healing. They may be discharged that day or stay overnight in the hospital. Prior to returning home, the patient receives instructions regarding medications, self-care, and activity.

Preparation for the Cardiac Ablation Procedure

Before your cardiac ablation procedure, please be aware of the following:

  • You may be advised to discontinue certain medications, such as blood thinners, from one to five days before the procedure.
  • If you have diabetes, you should consult your doctor on how to adjust your medications.
  • If you have an implanted heart device, such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, talk to your doctor to see if you need to take any special precautions.
  • You should not eat or drink anything after midnight on the evening before the procedure.

Cardiac Ablation Specialists

John M. Fontaine, MD
Specialties: Cardiology, Electrophysiology, Ablation, Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillator

S. Luke Kusmirek, MD
Specialties: Cardiology, Electrophysiology
Special expertise in complex ablation procedures including atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia ablation

Steven P. Kutalek, MD
Specialties: Cardiology, Lead Extraction, Pacemakers, Defibrillators, Medication Management

Heath Saltzman, MD
Specialties: Cardiology, Electrophysiology, Nuclear Cardiology Imaging

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The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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