Mayo Clinic doctors trained in heart conditions (cardiologists), cardiologists trained in heart rhythm disorders (electrophysiologists) and other doctors evaluate and treat heart rhythm disorders. Your doctor will work with you to determine if cardiac ablation is an appropriate treatment for you.
Electrophysiologists first conduct an electrophysiology test. In this test, doctors insert long, flexible tubes (catheters) with electrodes at the tips into blood vessels in your groin, arm or neck and thread them through your blood vessels to several places within your heart. Once in place, the electrodes can precisely map the spread of electrical impulses throughout your heart.
During cardiac ablation, your doctor applies heat (radiofrequency energy), a laser or extreme cold (cryoablation) through the catheters to destroy (ablate) the abnormal heart tissue or block the electrical signals causing the arrhythmia.
Sometimes your doctor may destroy the electrical connection (AV node) between the upper and lower heart chambers (atria and ventricles), blocking the heart's electrical impulses. Once the AV node is destroyed, doctors then need to implant a pacemaker to establish a normal heart rhythm.
After the procedure, you'll be monitored in the hospital for a day or more. You'll usually return to your normal activities within a few days.
Cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that is often successful. You'll often have a reduced risk of complications, compared with open surgery. You'll usually recover quickly and return to normal activities within a few days after your procedure.
Risks aren't common, but may include bleeding, infection, stroke or other complications.