What you can expect
During pulmonary vein isolation
Pulmonary vein isolation is performed in the hospital. Before your procedure begins, a specialist will insert an intravenous line into your forearm or hand, and you'll be given a sedative to help you relax. In some situations, general anesthesia may be used instead to place you in a sleep-like state.
After your sedative takes effect, your doctor or another specialist will numb a small area near a vein in your groin, neck or shoulder. Your doctor will insert a needle into the vein and place a tube (sheath) through the needle.
Your doctor will thread catheters through the sheath and guide them to several places within your heart. Your doctor may inject dye into the catheter, which helps your care team see your blood vessels and heart using X-ray imaging. The catheters have electrodes at the tips that can be used to send electrical impulses to your heart and record your heart's electrical activity.
This process of using imaging and other tests to determine what's causing your arrhythmia is called an electrophysiology (EP) study.
Catheters are moved from the upper right chamber of your heart to the upper left chamber of your heart where your pulmonary veins connect. Heat (radiofrequency ablation) or cold (cryoablation) energy will travel through the catheter tip to the target area and create a scar or destroy the tissue. In most cases, each of the four pulmonary veins is treated during pulmonary vein isolation.
In some cases, ablation blocks the electrical signals traveling through your heart to stop the atrial fibrillation and allow signals to travel over a normal pathway instead.
Pulmonary vein isolation usually takes three to six hours to complete, but complicated procedures may take longer.
During the procedure, it's possible you'll feel some minor discomfort when the dye is injected in your catheter or when energy is run through the catheter tips. If you experience any type of severe pain or shortness of breath, let your doctor know.
After pulmonary vein isolation
Following your procedure, you'll be moved to a recovery area to rest quietly for four to six hours to prevent bleeding at your catheter site. Your heartbeat and blood pressure will be monitored continuously to check for complications of the procedure.
Depending on your condition, you may be able to go home the same day as your procedure, or you may need to stay in the hospital. If you go home the same day, plan to have someone else drive you home after your procedure.
You may feel a little sore after your procedure, but the soreness shouldn't last more than a week. You'll usually be able to return to your normal activities within a few days after having pulmonary vein isolation.