Ventricular tachycardia (VT) ablation uses cold or heat energy to create tiny scars in your heart to block abnormal signals that cause a rapid, erratic heartbeat.
Ventricular tachycardia occurs when the heart's electrical signals cause your lower heart chambers (ventricles) to beat too quickly. The goal of VT ablation is to restore a normal heart rhythm.
Why it's done
Your doctor might recommend this type of cardiac ablation if you have a type of fast, erratic heartbeat called ventricular tachycardia. If you have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), VT ablation may reduce the number of shocks you receive from the device.
VT ablation isn't recommended for all types of ventricular tachycardia. Your doctor may recommend medications and other procedures first.
Discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Together you can weigh the benefits and risks of VT ablation.
What you can expect
Ventricular tachycardia ablation is done in the hospital. Before the procedure, you'll receive a medication called a sedative that helps you relax. In some cases, you'll receive anesthesia to place you in a sleep-like state.
A nurse or technician shaves any hair from an area, usually in the groin, and then numbs the area. The doctor inserts a long flexible tube (catheter) into the vein. He or she carefully guides the catheter into your heart.
Sensors on the tip of the catheter send electrical impulses and record your heart's electricity. Your doctor uses this information to determine the best place to apply the VT ablation treatment.
Your doctor will choose one of the following ablation techniques to create small scars in your heart and block abnormal heart rhythms.
- Heat (radiofrequency energy)
- Extreme cold (cryoablation)
VT ablation may be done from inside or outside the heart. Sometimes, treatment is done at both locations.
- Inside the heart. If your abnormal heartbeat is coming from inside your heart, your doctor will guide the catheter to this area. Heat or cold energy is applied to the target area, damaging the tissue and causing scarring. This helps block the electrical signals that cause ventricular tachycardia.
- Outside the heart (epicardial ablation). If your abnormal heartbeat starts in tissue outside the heart, your doctor will insert a needle through the skin on your chest and into the lining of the fluid-filled sack (pericardium) that surrounds your heart. A hollow tube (sheath) is inserted and catheters are passed through the tube to access the outside surface of the heart. Radiofrequency ablation or cryoablation can be used during epicardial ablation.
VT ablation takes about three to six hours. Afterward, you'll be taken to a recovery area where doctors and nurses will closely monitor your condition. You'll likely stay overnight in the hospital.
Most people see improvements in their quality of life after VT ablation. You may feel less tired or experience fewer ICD shocks. However, there's a chance that your abnormal heart rhythm may return. You may need a repeat procedure, or you and your doctor might consider other treatments.