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Catheter Ablation for Supraventricular Arrhythmias in Adults

Cardiac electrophysiologists at NYU Langone may use catheter ablation to correct or and even cure supraventricular arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter. In this procedure, your doctor cauterizes, or ablates, tissue that is triggering abnormal rhythms in the heart’s upper chambers, or atria.

VIDEO: Dr. Larry Chinitz, director of the Heart Rhythm Center, explains how catheter ablation is used to treat arrhythmia.

Cardiac electrophysiologists at NYU Langone’s Heart Rhythm Center, a nationally and internationally recognized arrhythmia treatment center, pioneered catheter ablation. This minimally invasive procedure has revolutionized the treatment of these types of arrhythmias by eliminating the need for surgery.

At NYU Langone, catheter ablation is performed in our cardiac electrophysiology laboratories at Kimmel Pavilion. Our doctors use highly advanced imaging, mapping, and recording technologies to pinpoint the source of an abnormal heart rhythm and provide treatment as needed.

How Catheter Ablation Works

During an ablation procedure, the doctor inserts a long, thin, hollow tube, called a catheter, into a small incision in the groin and guides it to the heart through a blood vessel. They use fluoroscopy, a type of real-time X-ray imaging, and computerized, three-dimensional mapping to help guide the catheter.

With the catheter in place, your doctor performs an electrophysiological study. They use electrode catheters—thin, flexible wires with electrodes at the tip that send electrical signals to the heart—to evaluate an arrhythmia in a safe and controlled setting. This allows the doctor to determine the type of arrhythmia you’ve been experiencing and pinpoint the source of the troublesome electrical signals.

Your doctor then uses catheter ablation to silence those signals by delivering energy in the form of heat or freezing. This energy eliminates the source of the arrhythmia without interfering with normal cardiac function.

Catheter Ablation Follow-Up Care

The length of the catheter ablation may vary, but is usually less than two hours. After the ablation is complete, our doctors use an advanced vascular closure system at the insertion site that allows you to start walking soon after the procedure. This reduces the length of your hospital stay. Though recovery is different for everyone, most people go home the same day. You may continue to feel the symptoms of arrhythmia for up to six weeks after the procedure, as the heart heals from the ablation.

You return to the Heart Rhythm Center for a follow-up visit two to four weeks after ablation. Our nurse practitioner or physician assistant reviews your medications and talks with you about any symptoms you may be experiencing, including fatigue, chest pain, groin discomfort, difficulty swallowing, coughing, or weight gain.

You receive a surveillance monitor, which you wear for the prescribed amount of time—it varies depending on the device you receive. Three to six months after the procedure, when your heart has fully healed, you see your electrophysiologist, who  reviews the data from the surveillance monitor to determine how your heart has responded to treatment. Medications may be changed or removed at this time.

If you have an arrhythmia that lasts for more than 24 hours or if you have any questions, call your doctor, who can evaluate your condition.

Our Research and Education in Supraventricular Arrhythmias in Adults

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.