Specialists at NYU Langone’s Heart Rhythm Center perform procedures designed to correct the fast or irregular heart rhythms associated with ventricular arrhythmias.
Generally, two procedures are used to manage ventricular arrhythmia—catheter ablation, which is used to prevent future arrhythmias, and defibrillation to provide immediate care to someone with life-threatening ventricular tachycardia. The doctors at the Heart Rhythm Center are pioneers in the use of catheter ablation to manage arrhythmias. This nonsurgical procedure has eliminated the need for surgery for many people with arrhythmias.
Arrhythmia is caused by rogue electrical signals in the heart that cause it to develop an abnormal rhythm. Catheter ablation is a treatment that uses high heat to destroy, or ablate, the cells that are generating the problematic electrical signals. In some cases, extreme cold is used instead.
Ablation begins with an electrophysiological test to pinpoint the source of the misfiring cells. In a nonsurgical procedure, your doctor inserts a long, thin, hollow tube called a catheter into a small incision in the groin. They then guide it to the heart through a blood vessel to the ventricles.
When the catheter is in place, your doctor uses electrode catheters—thin, flexible wires with electrodes at the tip that send electrical signals to the heart—to perform an electrophysiological test. Using the electrodes, they stimulate heart tissue to see what areas trigger an arrhythmia. This process creates a roadmap for your doctor by identifying tissue that needs to be treated.
After your doctor has identified the source of the arrhythmia, ablation is used to destroy, or ablate, abnormal electrical pathways that cause dangerous arrhythmias. The tissue can no longer generate or conduct electrical impulses, and therefore can no longer interfere with normal heart rhythm.
Sometimes the procedure requires an overnight stay in the hospital. Our specialists monitor you for the development of any blood clots, which increase your risk of stroke. Some people can go home the day of the procedure. After the procedure, you can resume normal activities when you feel able.
Defibrillation is a life-saving treatment used to return the heart to a normal rhythm. It is used when the heart is experiencing ventricular fibrillation, which causes it to twitch uncontrollably in a way that makes it impossible for blood to move through the heart.
Defibrillation can be delivered through an automated external defibrillator found in many public places, such as airports or gyms; an implantable cardioverter defibrillator; or a defibrillator in the emergency department. The jolt of energy acts as a reset, stunning the heart to start beating again. The heart then resumes its normal, healthy rhythm.
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