The procedure used to treat arrhythmias typically allows for a short recovery time, but precautions are necessary to preserve healthy heart function.
Heart ablation creates little scars on heart tissue to stop arrhythmias (abnormal electrical rhythms).
The recovery period usually lasts a few days. But you should plan on adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle to help preserve optimal heart function.
This article explores more about the recovery time and what you can expect after a heart ablation procedure.
Cardiac ablation is a common procedure used to treat arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation and supraventricular tachycardia. Arrhythmias are electrical problems that cause the heart to beat unusually fast, slow, or in a chaotic, inefficient rhythm.
Cardiac ablation is usually performed as a minimally invasive procedure involving a catheter inserted into a blood vessel in the arm or leg and guided to the area of the heart responsible for the rhythm disturbance. The catheter may emit radiofrequency waves to “burn” the tissue causing the problem or cold energy (cryoablation) to freeze the suspect tissue.
A new approach called pulsed field ablation uses electrical pulses to disable the troublesome cells. This pulsed field ablation may be as effective as the other traditional ablation procedures, but it it can carry a lower risk of adverse side effects, such as injury to healthy heart tissue.
Ablation may also be performed as an open heart surgical procedure. A surgical approach is usually done if heart surgery is also being performed to treat a separate heart condition.
If there are no side effects or problems after the procedure, you should be able to return to most of your activities in the
However, you should take some precautions initially to make sure your heart heals properly and you don’t trigger complications.
Some people may still have short episodes of irregular heartbeat after cardiac ablation. This is a typical reaction as tissue heals, and should go away over time.
In the initial hours after ablation, lying flat is essential to help prevent bleeding complications and to ensure the incisions are held securely. It’s also important to take it easy the days after your procedure and gradually increase your activity level to avoid any setbacks to your recovery.
Cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive procedure usually followed by a relatively short recovery period and a quick return to everyday activities.
Your arrhythmia symptoms may continue for several days or longer after your ablation, so don’t assume that the ablation was a failure. You may also feel tired at first while your heart heals after the procedure. Listen to your body and rest when you can.
You may still feel more tired than usual, but within a month, you should start to regain more of your energy. During the first month, you will have at least one follow-up appointment with your doctor to assess your heart function.
This is also a time to begin moving toward a permanent heart-healthy lifestyle that includes moderate exercise, a balanced diet, sufficient sleep, and stress management.
By three months, the ablated tissue in your heart should heal completely. The British Heart Foundation also suggests that you should know by about 10 weeks whether the ablation was successful in halting your arrhythmia. In the initial days and weeks after the procedure, you may still experience some rhythm problems until the ablation takes full effect.
Weight gain does occur sometimes after cardiac ablation. The reasons may be harmless and temporary or signs of further heart problems. For some people, weight gain results from generalized edema (swelling) caused by the body’s absorption of intravenous fluids in the hospital. This condition should resolve within a few days.
A more serious cause of weight gain is pericardial effusion, fluid buildup in the chest cavity. Aside from swelling or weight gain, you may also experience chest pain or shortness of breath.
Because unexplained weight gain can put pressure on the heart, it’s important to tell your doctor about it and have a medical examination to discover the cause.
- Keep your incision clean and dry.
- Make plans to participate in cardiac rehabilitation if advised by your doctor.
- Report to your doctor any symptoms, such as chest pain or bleeding from the incision.
- Bathe, swim, or otherwise submerge the incision site in water.
- Drive until your doctor gives you the OK.
- Lift anything over 10 pounds or other forms of physical exertion.
Cardiac ablation is a widely used procedure to treat arrhythmias. Because the process involves damaging a small portion of heart tissue, a healthy recovery is vital. Be sure to follow the advice of your healthcare team, and don’t exert yourself too much in the first few weeks and months after the procedure. If your heart doesn’t heal properly, it will prevent your recovery and potentially lead to other heart problems later.