An alternative to cardioversion is a catheter ablation. During this treatment, thin tubes called catheters are passed through your veins, usually in your leg or groin, to your heart. The catheters monitor your heart rate and are able to identify the source of the abnormal heart rhythm (also called an arrhythmia). Once identified, that area of the heart is destroyed using either a heat treatment called radiofrequency ablation or a freezing technique called cryoablation. Once this malfunctioning area has been dealt with it creates scar tissue and your heart rate should normalise.
This treatment can take anywhere from 15 minutes in very simple cases to a few hours in more complex situations. You will either be sedated or given a general anaesthetic so you will be asleep during the procedure. Our local centre for these procedures is Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital – so you would be referred from Venturi to our colleagues based there.
Will I need to have a pacemaker fitted?
You may need to be fitted with a pacemaker a few days or even weeks before having catheter ablation. This is necessary if the ablation is going to destroy the AV node. Your consultant will explain this process to you in detail before you give your consent, ensuring that you feel supported throughout.
A pacemaker is a very small device around the size of a matchbox which is inserted into your chest during surgery. It monitors the frequency of your heartbeats and sends out an electric pulse or signal to your heart causing it to beat more regularly. This is often used in older people who have a slower than normal heart rate. Pacemakers work with your heart, only sending out pulses as and when needed. They can dramatically improve your quality of life.
Typically pacemakers are surgically inserted into the left-hand side of your chest, under your collarbone. It is a straightforward procedure with hundreds of pacemakers being fitted every year. You will have local anaesthetic to undergo the procedure and it normally takes approximately one hour. Most patients can leave the hospital the same day. If one of our cardiologists is recommending that you have a pacemaker, they will support you to have this operation either on the NHS or privately elsewhere if you prefer. These procedures are not performed within the Venturi day clinic as they can require an overnight stay.