Heart & Vascular Center

Heart and Vascular (Cardiology)

#14 in the Nation
by U.S. News & World Report

Cardiac Ablation Procedures

Cathether ablation is a treatment for cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. Catheter ablation procedures have revolutionized management of cardiac arrhythmias, with success rates greater than 95 percent for many types of arrhythmias (specifically supraventricular). Today, catheter ablation is a viable alternative to long-term medication. It is a relatively painless, curative option for patients with rapid heart rates due to cardiac arrhythmias.

The Heart & Vascular Center is internationally recognized for its expertise in the evaluation and management of cardiac arrhythmias. We perform more than 1,500 procedures per year for patients with a wide range of rhythm disorders, from the common to the complex.

Traditional Ablation Procedure

Traditional ablation involves a small, thin tube (catheter) being inserted into the heart through a blood vessel in the groin or arm. The catheter is moved through the blood vessel to the site of the arrhythmia in the heart, where the electrical impulses that cause the abnormal heart beat originate. The site of the arrhythmia is destroyed by using either:
  • radiofrequency ablation – very high frequency radio waves that heat the tissue until the site is destroyed; or
  • cryoablation, in which an ultra-cold substance is applied to the site, freezing the tissue and destroying the site
Catheter ablation procedures are used to treat all cardiac arrhythmias that result in an abnormally fast heart beat.

Advanced Ablation Procedure

In addition to standard ablation techniques, a more advanced technique can be used to identify and destroy the area of the heart causing irregular heart rhythms. Known as an electroanatomic mapping system, this technique provides clinicians with a detailed, three-dimensional map of the heart and the patterns of electrical activity that occur within it.

The electroanatomic map is created using a technology similar to that used with global position satellites (GPS) to determine the location of an object on earth. Like GPS, electroanatomic mapping generates a real-time location of the tip of the ablation catheter within the context of a map of the heart, which is viewed on a three-dimensional display. For many complex arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia, the electroanatomic mapping technique has revolutionized the approach and success of catheter ablation.

In addition to electroanatomic mapping, we use the Stereotaxis magnetic guidance system to do complex ablation procedures. This system, developed in collaboration with Heart & Vascular Center electrophysiologists, allows for precise guidance of the ablation catheter using computerized control of magnetic fields. This revolutionary technique enables remote control of the ablation catheter to approach difficult to reach locations within the heart.

To make an appointment with a Washington University heart or vascular specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call .

New Hybrid A-Fib Procedure

Washington University doctors are performing a new procedure to treat atrial fibrillation. During the new hybrid procedure, doctors have access to both the inside and the outside of the heart, helping to better block the erratic electrical signals that cause the heart to misfire


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