Ventricular tachycardia ablation
Date Updated: 01/18/2022
Ventricular tachycardia (VT) ablation uses cold or heat energy to create tiny scars in the heart to block faulty signals that cause a rapid, erratic heartbeat.
Ventricular tachycardia occurs when the heart's electrical signals cause the lower heart chambers (ventricles) to beat too quickly. The goal of VT ablation is to restore a regular heart rhythm.
Why it's done
Your health care provider 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 health care provider may recommend medications and other procedures first.
Discuss your treatment options with your health care provider. 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 likely 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 care provider shaves any hair from an area, usually in the groin, and then numbs the area. The health care provider inserts a long flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel, usually in the groin area. The catheter is gently guided to the heart.
Sensors on the tip of the catheter send electrical impulses and record the heart's electricity. The health care provider uses this information to determine the best place to apply the VT ablation treatment.
The health care provider will choose one of the following ablation techniques to create small scars in the heart and block irregular 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 the irregular heartbeat is coming from inside the heart, the health care provider 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 the irregular heartbeat starts in tissue outside the heart, the health care provider will insert a needle through the skin on the chest and into the lining of the fluid-filled sack (pericardium) that surrounds the 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 usually be taken to a recovery area where care providers 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 irregular heart rhythm may return. You may need a repeat procedure, or you and your health care provider might discuss other treatments.