Sometimes our doctors need to stop erratic electrical signaling by destroying abnormal heart cells with heat or cold.

A standard form of such ablation uses thin tubes (catheters) to reach the heart from a blood vessel.

Catheter ablation provides a minimally invasive option when other approaches — such as regular checkups, lifestyle changes, brief external shocks (cardioversion) or medications — do not work.

It also provides an alternative when drug therapy is causing side effects.

Catheter Ablation at University of Maryland

Our program offers several advantages when it comes to catheter ablation:

  • Treatment choices: Like other programs we can perform ablation inside the heart (endocardium approach). But we are among the select centers that can also treat the outside of the heart (epicardium approach), where some arrhythmias develop.
  • Teamwork: Our arrhythmia specialists (electrophysiologists) work closely with our surgeons, who provide another form of ablation during open-heart operations. Sometimes they pair up to provide a hybrid procedure combining the best of both approaches. Learn more about surgical CryoMaze ablation, including hybrid procedures.
  • World-leading 3-D technology: We specialize in using ablation to treat complex arrhythmias. We are known worldwide for incorporating 3-D imaging into treatment planning for these conditions, particularly for an arrhythmia called ventricular tachycardia (v-tach). Learn more about 3-D imaging and v-tach ablation.

Heart Ablation Effectiveness

While it still depends on the type of arrhythmia, we are increasingly using catheter ablation for effective treatment.

Sometimes ablation cures the arrhythmia. At other times, it simply manages the problem. Learn more about the arrhythmias for which ablation is a treatment option:

How Cardiac Ablation Works

Ablation takes several steps:

  1. A nurse provides local anesthesia and possibly a sedative.
  2. Your doctor makes an incision in the groin, then uses a camera and video monitor to guide a straw-sized tube (sheath) into one of the blood vessels reaching the heart.
  3. The doctor threads thinner tubes (catheters) with electrodes into the sheath and toward the heart.
  4. The doctor sends a small electrical impulse to the heart, activating and identifying the abnormal cells causing the problem.
  5. The electrodes deliver painless heat (radiofrequency) or cold energy (cryotherapy), killing the abnormal cells without damaging the rest of the heart. This stops cells that were mistakenly sending out electrical triggers or allowing wayward signals through.