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How Radiofrequency Ablation Is Typically Used in Cardiology

Radiofrequency ablation, cardiology,

Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a highly effective, minimally invasive treatment for disturbances in heart rate or rhythm. In more than 90 percent of cases, RFA is successful and reduces or eliminates the need for medication.

This procedure is recommended when medication, lifestyle changes and other treatments like pacemakers and defibrillators are ineffective. Our specialists outline how RFA can help treat your condition so you can discuss it with your provider and make informed decisions about your cardiac care.

What is radiofrequency ablation?

At West Coast Medicine and Cardiology, cardiologist Rajesh Sam Suri, MD, FACC, offers the latest advancements in treating heart disease and conditions that impact the heart. He may recommend radiofrequency ablation if you have an abnormal heart rhythm that has failed to respond to other treatments.

RFA involves using radio waves to heat up a small area of tissue in the heart that is causing an abnormal heart rate or rhythm. When successful, RFA destroys just that tissue, and the heart’s rate or rhythm returns to normal. The general treatment goals are to:

Why a normal heart rate and rhythm matters

Heart rhythm plays a vital role in the proper function of your heart. Serious consequences can occur when your heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or erratically. Here’s a look at what happens when there’s a disturbance in heart rate or rhythm.

Rapid heart rate

When your heart constantly beats too fast, it’s called tachycardia. If the heart’s lower chambers quiver while beating too fast, it can disrupt your heart’s ability to pump blood. Tachycardia can result in a loss of heart function, sometimes suddenly and without warning, which can be fatal unless it’s treated immediately.

Ablation is commonly used to treat supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which occurs when the abnormally fast heartbeats occur in the upper chambers of the heart.  Symptoms include:

Irregular heartbeat

Special cells in your heart produce electrical signals that travel along pathways to the chambers of your heart. These signals keep the heart’s upper and lower chambers working in sync. Abnormal cells can produce electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. It causes the heart to beat irregularly. An abnormal electrical signal interferes with the heart’s ability to pump in a synchronized fashion, allowing blood to pool in the heart’s upper chambers.

Clots can form, leave the heart, and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. The damage sustained by a lack of oxygen to areas of the brain can have a devastating impact on many parts of the body.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:

Erratic heartbeat

In some hearts, an abnormal heart rhythm develops when an electrical impulse starts from a different location or follows an abnormal route, causing a short-circuit in one of the upper chambers of the heart. This is called atrial flutter.

The short-circuit causes the heart to pump erratically, slowing blood flow and increasing the risk of blood clots and a stroke.

Atrial flutter can make you feel:

What happens during ablation?

Dr. Suri and his team of nurses and technicians perform the procedure and work together to keep you safe. During radiofrequency ablation, Dr. Suri threads a catheter through your blood vessels to the exact area of the heart that is causing problems.

Once he finds the abnormal tissue, Dr. Suri sends painless pulses of energy to the tissue, heating and destroying it while leaving the rest of the heart unharmed.

Medicines to treat problems with heart rate and rhythm work very well for most people, but they don’t work for everyone. In these cases, doctors may suggest radiofrequency ablation.

If you’ve been diagnosed with irregular heart rhythm, schedule a consultation with Dr. Suri to discuss your options. Call our Fremont or Hayward office today, or book online.

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