What can I Expect During Ablation Surgery?

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  • Written By: A. Garrett
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2019
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Patients suffering from an erratic heart beat, known as an arrhythmia, or blood clotting in the atria of their heart due to atrial fibrillation may require ablation surgery for the prevention of a heart attack or stroke. The presence of extra cellular tissue in the heart causes the inconsistent heart rate by interfering with electrical impulses that regulate how the heart functions. Consequently, surgical removal of the tissue is required. A doctor may recommend open surgery or minimally invasive surgery depending on the severity of the arrhythmia and the presence of any other underlying heart conditions.

Tissue removal via ablation surgery is required for patients with excess tissue around the heart created by unwanted cells. The normal tissues around the heart stimulate the heart to beat via electrical impulses transmitted via the nerves; extra tissues also send signals that interfere with normal currents. These scrambled impulses inhibit the heart’s ability to pump blood and may cause blood to pool and consequently clot in the chambers of the heart. Ablation surgery interrupts the electric waves sent by the additional tissues.


Open surgery requires the patient to be subjected to incisions and a prolonged healing time. An open ablation surgery requires the patient to be placed under anesthesia. Once under anesthesia, the patient is placed on a respirator and his or her heart is stopped. A surgeon then makes cuts on the abnormal tissue. Scar tissue subsequently forms over the cuts and blocks the impulses emitted by the extra tissues.

A variation of this surgery involves a surgeon inserting a catheter into the extra tissues around the heart. The catheter then releases radio or laser waves into the excess tissues. Such a procedure limits the ability of the tissues to release obstructive impulses.

Minimally invasive surgeries do not require the chest to be opened or the heart to be stopped. Instead, smaller incisions are made in the chest. Then, endoscopes are inserted and tiny incisions are made around the excess tissue. Similar to open surgeries, scar tissue forms over the excess tissues and prevents the emission of electrical impulses.

Prior to the surgery, patients should divulge what medications they are taking. Also, candidates for ablation surgery must abstain from eating or drinking anything the day before the surgery. The area around the chest will be numbed by a medication injected via a needle. In the weeks following the surgery, a patient may experience a rapid heart beat as the heart begins to develop a normal rhythm.


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