Will My Cardiac Catheter Ablation be Painful?

When you read about a cardiac catheter ablation including the fact that heart tissue is destroyed using heat, you might be concerned that it would be very painful. Further, traditional interventions for heart rhythm issues just 20 or 30 years ago required invasive surgery and long recovery times. But have things changed? The answer is most definitely yes.

Medical illustration of the human heart shows inside of ventricles and where a cardiac catheter ablation takes place.

Why would you need a cardiac catheter ablation?

If you’ve been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or AFib you have probably experienced an episode ranging from mild to debilitating. You may have even believed you were having a heart attack and, as such, ended up in the emergency room. Regardless, feeling that pressure in your chest, feeling your heart race and feeling the pounding of a very fast heart is scary for anyone. A cardiac catheter ablation is a curative solution for many abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias, most especially AFib, a condition that affects upwards of 5 million Americans.

Today’s cardiac catheter ablations

The need for a less invasive solution for Afib treatment led to the invention of cardiac catheter ablation. Catheter-based heart interventions have now replaced many simple and even some complex treatments that would have otherwise required open-heart surgery. A small catheter is threaded up a vein from the groin or neck to the heart, and the tip of the catheter emits radio frequency waves to heat problematic heart tissue and destroy it permanently.

So, will it hurt?

The answer is not a lot. Of course, anytime we perform an interventional or invasive procedure, there will be some recovery time. However, the procedure itself is performed under sedation or general anesthesia (for longer procedures) and the patient does not feel discomfort. After the procedure is complete, the patient may feel some discomfort or pain from the heart, but this is usually mild and manageable. The destroyed tissue is slowly absorbed back into the heart. The small incision made in the thigh or arm to thread the catheter to the heart is uncomfortable as it heals but does not require anything more than over-the-counter medication to manage.

In fact, most patients leave the hospital on the day of the procedure because it is such a minimally invasive process.

What many patients say

Many patients are shocked that they don’t feel more pain – somethings that they expected considering we were working on the heart. Further, patients are happy to know that they can return to many of their favorite activities just a few days after the procedure. Most importantly, patients can feel the effects of the procedure immediately and many can look forward to reducing or eliminating anti-arrhythmic or blood thinning medication that may have caused them months or even years of side effects.

The bottom line is that cardiac catheter ablation is a minimally invasive solution to a condition that must be treated swiftly and appropriately. To learn more about a cardiac catheter ablation and the expectations and results that go along with it, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Andrea Tordini, who as an EP, specializes in the treatment of heart rhythm disorders using advanced technology and techniques.

Dr. Tordini is a part of Florida Medical Clinic in Tampa

Skip to content