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What To Expect Before Catheter Ablation

Before you have catheter ablation, your doctor may review your medical history, do a physical exam, and recommend tests and procedures.

Your doctor will want to know about any medicines you're taking. Some medicines can interfere with catheter ablation. If you take any of these medicines, your doctor may advise you to stop taking them before the procedure.

Your doctor also may ask whether you have diabetes, kidney disease, or other conditions. If so, he or she might need to take extra steps during or after the procedure to help you avoid complications.

Before catheter ablation, you may have tests such as:

  • An EKG (electrocardiogram). This simple, painless test records your heart's electrical activity. The test shows how fast your heart is beating and its rhythm (steady or irregular). An EKG also records the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through your heart.
  • Echocardiography. This is a painless test that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of your heart. The pictures show the size and shape of your heart. They also show how well your heart's chambers and valves are working.
  • Stress testing. Some heart problems are easier to diagnose when your heart is working hard and beating fast. During stress testing, you exercise to make your heart work hard and beat fast while heart tests are done. If you can't exercise, you may be given medicine to raise your heart rate.

Less often, your doctor may recommend cardiac catheterization (KATH-eh-ter-ih-ZA-shun), coronary angiography (an-jee-OG-rah-fee), or a test to rule out an overactive thyroid. (An arrhythmia can be a symptom of an untreated overactive thyroid.)

If you're pregnant, let your doctor know before having catheter ablation. The procedure involves radiation, which can harm the fetus. Talk with your doctor about whether the benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks.

If you're a woman of childbearing age, your doctor might recommend a pregnancy test before catheter ablation to make sure you're not pregnant.

Once the procedure is scheduled, your doctor will tell you how to prepare for it. You'll likely need to stop eating and drinking by midnight before the procedure. Your doctor will give you specific instructions.

Some people go home the same day as the procedure. Others need to stay in the hospital longer. Driving after the procedure might not be safe. Your doctor will let you know whether you need to arrange for someone to drive you home.

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Last Updated: March 5, 2012