Cardiac (Heart) Ablation for Children
During an ablation, small areas of scar are created by burning or freezing the spot the arrhythmia comes from. This eliminates the electrical signals causing the arrhythmia, which then prevents it from happening in the future. Once the heart’s electrical activity has been studied (EP study) and the source of the arrhythmia has been identified, your heart rhythm doctor decides if it is safe to do the ablation. In rare cases, the extra electrical connection is so close to heart's regular electrical system that your doctor may not want to risk accidentally damaging the regular electrical parts of the heart and will decide not to do the ablation.
Before Your Visit
Before a patient is brought in for an ablation, their heart rhythm doctor will want to have an electrocardiogram (ECG) that shows an arrhythmia. This is because the symptoms of an arrhythmia – like palpitations or dizziness – can be caused by many different things that don’t require an EP study and won’t be helped by an ablation. If a patient is having severe enough symptoms, though, their doctor may recommend an EP study even without a documented arrhythmia.
On the Inside
To perform the ablation, a special catheter is placed that can sense, pace, AND burn or freeze inside the heart. Depending on the location of the abnormal electricity, one may burn or freeze the abnormal circuit, but sometimes they may use both during the same procedure.
Once the area of abnormal electricity has been ablated, they will start a waiting period in the procedure room. Usually, this waiting period lasts about 30 minutes, but may be longer for some patients. During this time, your doctor will repeat a lot of the pacing tests they did at the beginning of the procedure. They are basically checking their work – looking to make sure the short circuit is actually gone and that the arrhythmia cannot be triggered anymore. If more tachycardia is seen, your doctor may decide to do more ablation – and then repeat the waiting period afterwards.