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Radiofrequency catheter ablation can offer a permanent cure for some types of arrhythmias, and is often a preferred method for conditions causing rapid heart rates, such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. This procedure involves the use of a specially designed catheter that is threaded through the leg and into the heart. Once positioned in the heart, the catheter is directed to the arrhythmia source, which most often originates from the pulmonary veins. The catheter emits high-frequency radio waves to create lesions on the abnormal tissue. These lesions are designed to block the pathway of erratic impulses of atrial fibrillation, which restores a more normal heart rhythm.
Cryoblation catheter ablation is a catheterization therapy similar to radiofrequency ablation, but instead of using heat, this procedure uses extreme cold to treat irregular heartbeats. Once the catheter has located the arrhythmia, pressurized refrigerant is used to freeze the abnormal tissue/electrical pathway that is interfering with the heart's normal electrical impulses.
During cryoblation, a electrophysiologist can temporarily freeze heart tissue and check the heart's electrical functionality. If the frozen tissue is not causing the disturbance, it can be restored without damage to the heart. This allows the doctor to be certain of the location in the heart that is causing the arrhythmia before ablating the tissue.
For patients with complex arrhythmias who have not had the desired results from traditional catheter ablation, epicardial ablation could be an alternative treatment solution. Unlike with traditional catheter ablation (or endocardial ablation) that treat arrhythmias by ablating tissue inside the heart, epicardial ablation targets the source of the arrhythmia on the outside of the heart.
At UChicago Medicine, we have one of the most experienced epicardial ablation physicians in the world. During the procedure, a special needle is used to puncture the pericardium (the sack around the heart) to gain access to the tissue of the outer heart. The catheter is inserted through that puncture, and once the physician has identified the exact location of the arrhythmia, the tissue is ablated to eliminate the irregularity.