Catheter ablation for supraventricular tachycardia

If your doctor suspects you have Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) you may be referred for testing and potential treatment. You can think of most SVTs as a 'short circuit' within your heart. There are a number of potential locations for this 'short-circuit' and your doctor will explain which area in your heart is most likely the issue.

Catheter ablation is an effective treatment for most SVTs. The procedure involves a diagnostic component and, if appropriate, treatment can be delivered at the same time using catheter ablation. During the procedure, flexible wires will be placed into your heart, through incisions in your groin. These wires will record signals inside the chambers of your heart. Catheter ablation provides a cure in over 90 per cent of patients, but it also carries some small risks including a 1 in 100 chance that you may require permanent pacemaker. Please make sure you ask questions and understand the risks when you meet with your doctor. 

How it works

Each SVT relies on a ‘short circuit’ of the heart’s electrical system. The location of this ‘short circuit’ can vary depending on the type of SVT you have and we will perform some tests that will help locate this ‘short circuit.’
After the diagnosis is made and the location of the ‘short circuit’ is confirmed your doctor will usually begin with the catheter ablation. This means your doctor will heat the small area of tissue causing the ‘short circuit’ using radiofrequency energy. This will creates a small scar in your heart and will stop the circuit and cures the SVT. In approximately 1 in 20 patients the ‘short circuit’ can heal up and another procedure may be needed.  

What to expect

  • The procedure will be performed in the electrophysiology laboratory (EP lab).
  • When you arrive you will be directed to Admitting to register before moving to the Cardiac Sciences Unit. A nurse will greet you and confirm your identity.
  • The nurse will place an IV line and check your vitals.
  • You will meet the doctor and be asked to sign a consent form to confirm you would like to go ahead with the procedure. At this time you may ask any questions you have. 
  • You will then be moved on a stretcher to the EP lab.
  • The same nurse you met earlier will make sure you are comfortable throughout the procedure by using sedation drugs. General anaesthetic is not used for this procedure.
  • The procedure is performed using a small amount of x-rays so if you are a woman of child bearing age it is important that you confirm you are not pregnant. 
  • The procedure will take two-to-four hours to complete and you may need to remain in hospital overnight to recover.
  • Before you are discharged from the hospital you will be reviewed by your health-care team and medications will be discussed with you.