The Catheter Ablation: What to Expect
Everyone is different, so how you recover will vary. When I had my ablation, the next day I felt so good that I went out to eat with my wife and kids. I felt totally fine.
On the other hand, I’ve heard from others who were laid up for a few days after the ablation and didn’t start feeling normal until a good week after.
You may experience possible annoying (but minor) aches and pains. You may have a dry or sore throat. Your chest might feel tight or have a burning sensation. You might feel achy.
All of this is temporary. By the next day most of these aches and pains will be history.
The goal of an ablation is to put you in permanent NSR without any drugs. However, you may still need to take drugs to keep you in NSR during the three-month recovery period known as the blanking period. Don’t get discouraged by that — it’s part of the process. Needing to take drugs is not an indication your ablation was a failure! In most cases you will be able to come off your drugs after the blanking period.
You hope to be done with any arrhythmia after your ablation, but you may experience atrial flutter that may require a cardioversion.
Atrial flutter after an ablation is common. Experiencing it and needing a cardioversion is not an indication that the ablation was a failure!
Tips to Ensure a Sound Mind and Body
Now that we’ve got the expectations out of the way, I’d like to share some tips with you that will help you mentally and physically prepare for your ablation.
Ignore all those depressing statistics that show how ineffective ablations are. Those statistics take into account ablations done for all types of AFib cases — from easy cases to very complex cases — done by all skill levels of EPs.
Despite this, the success rates for ablations still aren’t that bad — about 60-70 percent after one procedure and 80-90 percent after two procedures.
As I mentioned earlier, the EP doing your ablation and the complexity of your case will determine your success rate. If you have paroxysmal AFib and you’ve only had it for a year and a highly qualified EP is treating you, you’ll very likely be in the 90 percent success rate after one procedure!
On the other hand, if you’ve had persistent AFib for many years and you go to an EP that has only done 100 or so in their career, you can almost be assured you’ll need two procedures or more.
Age Isn’t Everything
You’re not too old to have an ablation! An experienced EP can do successful ablations for people even in their 80s and 90s.
If you’re in your 60s or 70s and your EP is telling you you’re too old for an ablation, look for another EP immediately!
Keep Your Body in Check
If you’re overweight, lose weight! Being lean helps the EP do their job better and will help you recover faster with fewer complications.
Don’t wait for your AFib to get worse before having an ablation. You may only be experiencing an AFib episode once every few months now but it almost always gets worse over time. And when it does, it becomes harder to ablate (i.e. your odds of needing two procedures increases significantly).
Confidence Is Key
Once you’ve made the decision to have an ablation, don’t look back or second-guess yourself. Be confident you made the right decision.
Don’t back out even if your AFib suddenly goes silent in the days and weeks leading up to your ablation. Oddly enough, your AFib will often go silent after you set a date for your ablation. Don’t let it fool you. The day you call to cancel your procedure your AFib will come roaring back.
Once you’ve set a date for your ablation, stop browsing the Internet to read about ablations. The majority of the ablation stories out there are doom and gloom and depressing. They will only bring you down and have you second-guessing your decision.
Have a positive and confident frame of mind heading into your ablation! Being negative or unsure of what you’re doing will not help. Be excited that you will soon be AFib-free!