Ablation Therapy

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What is Ablation Therapy?

Ablation [a-BLEY-shuh n] therapy is a way to treat a child’s irregular heartbeat when medicine isn’t working. “Ablate” means to destroy. Ablation therapy uses a small wire placed inside the heart to destroy the tissue that makes a child’s heart beat too fast or in an irregular pattern. This kind of heart problem is called arrhythmia [uh-RITH -mee-uh].

What are the risks and/or side effects?

Sometimes the wires used for ablation therapy can damage a blood vessel and cause bleeding or infection, but this is rare. Ablation therapy is usually considered safe.

What are the benefits?

Ablation therapy can help a child’s heart beat normally again and improve their quality of life. It can stop symptoms of arrhythmia that a child might be having, such as weakness, tiredness, and dizziness.

How do I prepare?

Your child might need to stop taking their medicines before ablation therapy. Your child’s doctor will tell you about this before the procedure.

Usually, your child will not be able to eat or drink anything for about 6 to 8 hours before ablation therapy.

Tell your child’s doctor if your child has a cold, fever, or other sickness that day.

How is it done or administered?

Ablation therapy takes about 2 to 4 hours. These are the steps:

  1. A kind of medicine called a sedative is given to the child to help them relax.
  2. The skin on the child’s arm, neck, or leg is cleaned, and a medicine is given to numb that area.
  3. A small cut is made in the child’s skin, and a thin tube is put through the cut into a blood vessel.
  4. The doctor uses x-ray pictures to guide the tube through the child’s blood vessels into their heart.
  5. Wires are placed in the child’s heart through the tube. At the ends of the wires are electrodes that measure electrical activity. This shows which part of the heart is causing the irregular heartbeat.
  6. The doctor uses heat or cold to destroy that small part of the heart. This is not painful for the child.
  7. The tube and wires are removed, and a bandage is put on the cut.

After ablation therapy, the child must lie still for a few hours, and they will be watched carefully. They might go home the same day or spend the night in the hospital.

When will I know the results?

Cardiac ablation works for most people, but your child might have an irregular heart beat for a few days after the procedure. They might need to keep taking their heart medicine or take a different medicine.

What are follow-up requirements and options?

A child that has had this therapy will have a checkup with their doctor in about 2 weeks.

Call the child’s doctor if they have any of these problems after ablation therapy:

  • Swelling, tingling, or numbness near the cut in the skin
  • Chest pain that is also in the jaw, neck, or arm
  • Nausea (feeling sick to the stomach or throwing up)
  • Sweating a lot
  • Breathlessness
  • Feeling so dizzy that they need to lie down

What should I expect during recovery?

For a few days after ablation therapy, your child might have these symptoms:

  • Tiredness
  • Achiness in the chest
  • Bruising or bleeding where the skin was cut

If your child has bleeding from the cut, have them lie down and press firmly on the area. If the bleeding doesn’t slow down, call 911.

In ablation therapy, a small cut is made in the child’s skin, and a tube is placed in a blood vessel through the cut. By viewing x-ray pictures on a computer as they are taken, a doctor guides the tube into the child’s heart. Wires are threaded through the tube into the heart and used to destroy (ablate) the area that is causing the irregular heartbeat. Cardiac ablation restores a normal heartbeat and improves quality of life. Learn more about pediatric ablation therapy.