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Catheter Ablation

The Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Heart & Vascular Center is internationally recognized for expertise in evaluating and managing cardiac arrhythmias.

Our team has developed and refined our techniques to give you the safest, most effective catheter-based ablations. These procedures use heat or cold to safely create scars on the heart and block the abnormal electrical signals that cause arrhythmias.

Catheter Ablation: Why Choose Us?

When you come to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, you will find:

  • Nation’s top experts: Our team treats patients with all types of arrhythmias, from the common to the complex. Other doctors send us patients with complicated conditions, including those who have both an arrhythmia and another heart problem.
  • High volume: We perform more than 350 ablations every year. Such a high number gives us a depth of experience and expertise, meaning better results for our patients. You can feel confident that you are receiving the best care possible, so you can get back to your daily activities, symptom-free.
  • Noninvasive ablation mapping: We are leaders in the field of arrhythmia treatment and mapping. Mapping enables us to determine precisely where to place the scars before we begin the ablation procedure. We are currently researching a technique that allows us to perform mapping completely noninvasively, instead of using a catheter procedure.

Catheter Ablation Procedures at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

A catheter ablation is a treatment for a cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. Catheter ablation has excellent success rates, reaching greater than 95 percent for many types of arrhythmias. It is an effective alternative to long-term medication and less invasive than surgery.

Cardiac ablation procedures are relatively painless, and we recommend them for patients with certain types of arrhythmia, including:

  • Atrial fibrillation, when your heart quivers instead of beating normally
  • Ventricular tachycardia, a rapid heartbeat that is potentially life threatening

Catheter Ablation: What to Expect

The goal of a catheter ablation is to create safe and effective scars on the heart to stop abnormal electrical impulses from traveling through it. During the procedure, we:

  1. Make an incision, usually in the groin
  2. Thread the catheter (long, thin tube) through your blood vessels until we reach the heart
  3. Deliver energy to create scars, using either:
    • Radiofrequency ablation: High-frequency radio waves heat the tissue.
    • Cryoablation: An ultra-cold substance freezes the tissue.
  4. Remove the catheters and monitor your heart rate and rhythm to ensure it has returned to normal

Catheter Ablation Mapping

We complete mapping before the ablation to determine the exact location of the arrhythmia. Our electroanatomic system provides our team with a detailed, 3-D map of the heart and its patterns of electrical activity.

The process is similar to using the global positioning system (GPS) to determine the location of an object on earth. Electroanatomic mapping generates a real-time view of your heart so we can locate the arrhythmia — resulting in:

  • Shorter procedure
  • Less risk
  • More accurate ablation

In addition to electroanatomic mapping, we use:

  • Stereotaxis Magnetic Navigation System: Developed in collaboration with Washington University electrophysiologists, this system enables us to precisely guide the catheter using computer controls and magnetic fields. The system helps us access difficult-to-reach locations within the heart.
  • ECGI imaging: This technology is the focus of one of our clinical trials and is not available anywhere else. Unlike the catheter-based approach to mapping, it is completely noninvasive. You simply wear a specialized vest with electrodes that allows us to locate the trouble spots in your heart.
  • Rotor mapping: Traditional ablation technologies can be less than exact in identifying patterns in complex arrhythmias. Using rotor mapping therapy, physicians can not only see the disordered patterns but also find the exact source of the arrhythmia. This approach is a patient-specific solution that allows physicians to identify and ablate the unique sources that sustain serious heart rhythm disorders.

Contact Us

To make an appointment with a Washington University arrhythmia specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, call 855.925.0631.