About 1 in 18 people in the world have arrhythmia, which is a condition where a person’s heartbeat has an irregular rhythm – either too fast or too slow. One of the most effective ways to treat arrhythmia is through cardiac ablation, which is a surgical treatment for a heart problem that helps restore a person’s normal heartbeat.
Cardiac ablations in Singapore are one of the most sought-after procedures for treating arrhythmia and has a very high success rate (90%+). Due to this, it is important that people who have arrhythmia are aware and informed of the procedure as a treatment option for their condition.
What is cardiac ablation?
Also known as a catheter ablation, a cardiac ablation is a surgical procedure that involves making incisions or the use of a tube (catheter) which is inserted into the heart to remove tissue that may be contributing to a person’s arrhythmia or abnormal heartbeat.
Take note, however, that not all people with arrhythmia need to undergo cardiac ablation. Usually, a cardiac ablation procedure is prescribed for people with abnormal heartrates that do not respond well to medication or other treatments and those whose arrhythmias are from the heart’s atria.
How will I know if I need Cardiac Ablation?
A minimum requirement for a person who needs to undergo cardiac ablation is that that person must have arrhythmia or an abnormal heart rate.
Cardiologists and other doctors will usually recommend a person undergo cardiac ablation when he/she:
- Has taken medication to treat his/her arrhythmia to little or no success
- Has experienced some bad side effects from medication for treating his/her abnormal heartbeat or arrhythmia
- Has a high risk of encountering complications like cardiac arrest from the arrhythmia
- Has arrhythmia of a certain type that responds well to the cardiac ablation procedure, such as supraventricular tachycardia
How does a cardiac ablation cure arrhythmia?
When a person’s heart beats, it is caused by electrical signals from the sinus node that in turn “orders” the heart to contract. These electrical signals usually follow a specific route from the sinus node to your heart, and if there are any obstructions or disruptions it may cause the heart to beat at an abnormal rhythm.
A cardiac ablation aims to remove these obstructions or disruptions by creating small scars in the heart which blocks irregular electrical signals and restore a person’s heart rate to normal.
Are all cardiac ablations performed the same way?
No. There are actually different types of cardiac ablations depending on the type of technology used for a catheter ablation as well as on how the surgeon cuts into your chest if it’s a surgical ablation.
The two types of catheter ablation based on the medical technology, which are:
- Radiofrequency (RF) ablation – In this type of cardiac ablation, the heart doctor will use special catheters that emit radiofrequency energy which creates round scars that surround each vein affected.
- Cryoablation – For this type of cardiac ablation, the catheter delivers a receptacle that contains a certain material that creates scars by freezing tissue.
On the other hand, a surgical ablation can be categorized as one of three types depending on how the surgeon cuts into a patient’s chest:
- Maze procedure – In this type of surgical ablation, the surgeon will create multiple small cuts in the upper are of the heart and then stitch them together to create scar tissue that stops abnormal electrical signals from the sinus node. This is usually done if the doctor is also currently performing open heart surgery to a patient for a different reason like a bypass procedure.
- Mini maze – A more precise type of maze procedure that is less invasive. The doctor will create small cuts into a patient’s chest and inserts a camera to perform ablation.
- Convergent procedure – In this type of surgical ablation, it pairs the mini maze process with a catheter ablation. Through the small incisions done using mini maze, the surgeon will insert a catheter and use RF or cryoablation to treat a person’s arrhythmia.
How should a person prepare for a cardiac ablation?
If you have decided that you want to undergo a cardiac ablation in Singapore, then visit your nearest heart clinic immediately, such as Cardiac Heart Centre near Newton. In there, have yourself checked up and evaluated to determine whether or not you need to undergo a cardiac ablation.
During the consultation, if your doctor agrees to let you undergo cardiac ablation, then he/she will give you some instructions on how to prepare for the procedure such as:
- What to eat and drink a day before the scheduled procedure, and to not eat or drink anything at least 6 hours before the procedure
- Informing the doctor about any medication you are currently taking so that the doctor can determine whether or not you may need to stop taking some of them before the procedure.
- Having someone to accompany you home after the procedure has been performed
Are there any risks of complication from a cardiac ablation?
As with any medical treatment, there is always the possibility of some complications. Before you agree to get a cardiac ablation, be aware of the small chance of these complications:
- Damage to blood vessels or heart valves
- Blood clots on a person’s lungs
- Heart attack
- Damage to the kidneys
What can I expect during and after the cardiac ablation procedure?
The whole procedure will take some time to finish, usually three to six hours depending on the type of arrhythmia. During this, the patient will usually be under general anesthesia and will be asleep.
After the procedure is finished, the patient will be sent to a recovery area where his/her condition is monitored closely. Once the patient wakes up, the doctor will inform whether or not he/she can go home or will have to spend a few days in the hospital for recovery. There may be some soreness on your chest area but should disappear in a week or less.
Some immediate results may be observed, and it is important that the patient closely monitor his/heart rate if it becomes abnormal again. If this happens, the patient should contact his/her doctor immediately.
Cadence Heart Centre
Mt. Elizabeth Hospital, 3 Mount Elizabeth #14-13
Mt Elizabeth Medical Centre, Singapore 228510
Mobile: (65) 8318 9884
Phone: (65) 6369 8789