5 Things to Know Before an Ablation Procedure (2023)

If an ablation foratrialfibrillationis on your calendar, now is not the time to upend your life. Medical experts advise you not make drastic changes to your diet or lifestyle a few weeks before the procedure. Do take time, though, to learn more about what you should do in advance — and what you can expect afterward.

You can help ensure things go smoothly by taking these five steps.

1. Pay Attention to Your Risk Factors

Once you begin discussing the possibility of having an ablation for atrial fibrillation (afib), it's also time to consider certain risk factors that you can control.

Although people who are a normal weight or underweight can also develop an irregular heartbeat, being overweight may increase your risk for afib. Drinking alcohol can also increase your risk for the condition. Obstructive sleep apnea is another significant risk factor for afib.

Long before undergoing an ablation, it's a good idea to shed extra pounds and limit your alcohol intake. If you've been diagnosed with sleep apnea, follow through on your treatment. If recommended by your healthcare provider, use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help normalize your breathing during sleep.

(Video) Part 4 of 5: Atrial Fibrillation Ablation - What to expect before and after the procedure

"When we do these procedures, we want the best possible result," saysMichelle Mead-Salley, RN, nurse coordinator of the Atrial Fibrillation Clinic at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. "We want to make sure patients change what they can." Although CPAP may be uncomfortable and hard for some people to tolerate, Mead-Salley notes that it's important to see that patients are making an effort.

2. Avoid Certain Kinds of Medication

Before an ablation procedure, your doctor may tell you to avoid any medication that increases your risk of bleeding, such as aspirin. If you're taking a blood thinner, like warfarin, your doctor may or may not advise you to stop taking it a few days before your procedure. As Mead-Salleynotes, this depends on your physician and the institution; each doctor's preference is different. Make sure you have all of your medication, including vitamins and supplements, on a medication list.

Your doctor will also monitor how long it takes for your blood to clot if you're taking the drugCoumadin(warfarin). The test that measures this is called a prothrombin time (PT) test. The result, noted in seconds, is usually reported as an international normalized ratio (INR).

If you're not taking a blood thinner, a normal PT result is an INR between 0.8 and 1.1. If you are taking a blood thinner, your target INR range is likely between 2.0 and 3.0.

Complications for people on Coumadin during ablation were less common when INR was between 2.0 and 3.0, according to a study published in 2013 in the journal Circulation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology. Because of this, the researchers noted that INR levels should be carefully monitored in preparation for an ablation for atrial fibrillation.

(Video) CARDIAC CATHETER ABLATION PROCEDURE . What To Expect : Day 1- 5 as an Athlete

"Patients need to keep their INR levels steady," Mead-Salley says. INR levels that are too high could result in the heart procedure being canceled, and levels that drop too low increase the risk for stroke.

RELATED: Pros and Cons of Vegetables for Afib Heart Health

3. Put Off Major Diet and Lifestyle Changes

Starting a new exercise regimen, not drinking alcohol, and eating more dark leafy greens are all healthy choices. But Mead-Salley cautions that what you do and eat could affect your INR level leading up to an ablation procedure.

The vitamin K found in green leafy vegetables can make warfarin less effective at preventing blood clots. The absorption of warfarin can also be affected by changes in exercise patterns.

Rather than making drastic changes ahead of the procedure, cut back on alcohol consumption slowly. And after your ablation, wait six weeks before beginning a new diet or workout program.

(Video) Cardiac ablation: What to expect

Also keep in mind that other medication you take can have an effect on blood-thinning drugs. "There are a lot of things that interact with Coumadin," says Kenneth Ellenbogen, MD, chairman of the division of cardiology in the PauleyHeart Center at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond. Drugs that may interact with warfarin include antibiotics, antifungals, antidepressants, and seizure medication, among others. This is less true he says for newer oral anticoagulants, such as Pradaxa (dabigatran), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), and Eliquis (apixaban), because these new drugs do not require the same frequent monitoring, dosing adjustments, or dietary restrictions as warfarin.

4. Reduce Your Risk for Bleeding

After an ablation, people typically take a blood thinner for a minimum of two months, says Dr. Ellenbogen. Because of this, the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like aspirin and Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), may be limited in order to reduce the risk of bleeding.

Although the length of recovery varies from person to person, Ellenbogen adds that many people feel like themselves in about a week. Still, to reduce the risk of bleeding, he suggests that people who've had an ablation for atrial fibrillation avoid especially strenuous workouts right afterward.

5. Get Moving Gradually

Limiting strenuous activity doesn't mean you should be sedentary, Ellenbogen says. To reduce your risk for blood clots, go about your daily routine and take frequent short walks.

People can typically return to their normal exercise routine one week after having an ablation. But wait until six weeks after your heart procedure, and after you've seen your doctor at a follow-up visit, Mead-Salley says, before starting a new healthy diet plan or a new workout regimen.

(Video) Catheter Ablation Procedure: What is it and how does it help an irregular heart beat?

(Video) 5 Things to Know Before an Ablation Procedure.


What to do before an ablation? ›

How do I prepare for a catheter ablation?
  1. Do not eat eating or drink for 6 hours before your procedure.
  2. Ask your doctor about taking your usual medications. ...
  3. Remove any jewellery that you wear every day and put on on a hospital gown.

What tests are done before an ablation? ›


You may be asked to obtain blood test, a chest X-ray, CT scan or MRI prior to the procedure. Your doctor's office will help to coordinate the timing of the procedure and to help arrange the necessary pre-procedure studies.

What are the risks of ablation procedure? ›

Possible risks of heart ablation include:
  • Arrhythmias.
  • Blood clots.
  • Damage to the vein from the sheath and catheter.
  • Damage to your heart, like a puncture or damaged valves or conduction.
  • Narrowing of the veins that carry blood between your lungs and heart (pulmonary vein stenosis).
May 17, 2022

How long does ablation surgery usually take? ›

Arkles explains. Thanks to advances in technology and expertise, ablations today generally last between 2 and 3 hours. Ninety percent of ablation patients go home the next day.

How painful is ablation surgery? ›

Most people do not feel pain during the procedure. You may sense mild discomfort in your chest. After the ablation is over, your doctor will remove the guide wire and catheters from your chest.

What are the pros and cons of ablation? ›

During ablation, the abnormal heart tissue is destroyed by burning or freezing it. Ablation has a greater chance of reducing and even eliminating your symptoms and making you feel better. But the procedure is invasive, expensive, and not right for everybody.

Who should not have an ablation? ›

Endometrial ablation should not be done in women who are past menopause and is not recommended for those with the following medical conditions: Disorders of the uterus or endometrium. Endometrial hyperplasia. Cancer of the uterus.

Is ablation major surgery? ›

Catheter ablation is a non-surgical procedure that uses thin, flexible tubes called catheters to reach inside the heart. It does not require a general anesthetic or stopping the heart.

How do you prevent blood clots after an ablation? ›

Limiting strenuous activity doesn't mean you should be sedentary, Ellenbogen says. To reduce your risk for blood clots, go about your daily routine and take frequent short walks. People can typically return to their normal exercise routine one week after having an ablation.

What are the long term effects of ablation? ›

This causes problems such as central hematometra, cornual hematometra, postablation tubal sterilization syndrome, retrograde menstruation, and potential delay in the diagnosis of endometrial cancer. The incidence of these complications is often understated and not communicated to patients.

What is the life expectancy after an ablation? ›

The median time from ablation to death was 11.6 days (interquartile range [IQR] 4.2–22.7).

Are there any restrictions after an ablation? ›

When you are discharged home, you should have a quiet few days resting to recover from your procedure. You can shower the next day, but should not have a bath or immerse your legs in water for at least 1 week. It is likely that you will have some chest pain and a sore throat after the ablation.

Can you be awake during an ablation? ›

The amount of sedation needed for the procedure depends on your specific arrhythmia and other health conditions. You may be being fully awake or lightly sedated, or you may be given general anesthesia (fully asleep).

Is ablation surgery high risk? ›

Risks of Catheter Ablation

Catheter ablation is a safe, effective treatment for AFib and certain other arrhythmias. Although rare, the risks of these procedures include: Bleeding, infection, and/or pain where the catheter was inserted. Blood clots (rare), which can travel to the lungs or brain and cause stroke.

How soon can I walk after ablation? ›

Avoid exercise except walking for 2 days. You can go for easy walks unless your doctor has told you not to. Avoid strenuous activity for 1 week e.g. jogging, cycling, swimming, or lifting anything over 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). If you had an ablation, you may notice a burning in your chest.

Do they shock your heart during ablation? ›

Electrical cardioversion: An electrical shock is delivered to your heart through patches placed on your chest, under sedation. The shock stops your heart's electrical activity momentarily; then in most cases, the heart beat resumes at its normal rhythm.

Is an ablation worth it? ›

Yes. For many people with AFib, the best results are achieved by pairing ablation with medicine. Even if your AFib doesn't go away, these treatments can still help control your symptoms and prevent heart failure or stroke.

Can you live a long life after an ablation? ›

Long-term survival is similar for patients with atrial fibrillation, whether they receive ablation or drug therapy. Control of the ventricular rate by ablation of the atrioventricular node and permanent pacing does not adversely affect long-term survival.

What causes an ablation to fail? ›

The primary reasons for a lenghty or failed ablation attempt were 1) inability to position the ablation catheter at the effective target site (16 patients, 25%); 2) instability of the ablation catheter or inadequate tissue contact at the target site, or both (15 patients, 23%); 3) mapping error due to an oblique course ...

Can ablation cause memory loss? ›

The main findings of this study were that 13.7% (26/190) of patients undergoing AF ablation had postoperative cognitive decline at 48 h after AF ablation, even under local anesthesia, which was associated with poor anticoagulation before and during the operation procedure.

Do they cut you open for ablation? ›

Endometrial ablation is a procedure to remove a thin layer of tissue (endometrium) that lines the uterus. It is done to stop or reduce heavy menstrual bleeding. But it is only done on women who do not plan to have any children in the future. The procedure is not surgery, so you will not have any cut (incision).

What are the two types of ablation? ›

There are two main kinds:
  • Radiofrequency ablation. The doctor uses catheters to send radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) that makes circular scars around each vein or group of veins.
  • Cryoablation. A single catheter sends a balloon tipped with a material that freezes the tissues to cause a scar.

What is the best sleeping position to prevent blood clots? ›

lie on their sides with a pillow between the knees if desirable. unaware whether this simple physiotherapeutic measure has been tested. part, venous thrombo-embolism is essentially caused by venous stasis. to use appropriate chemo-prophylaxis and elastic stockings.

Do you still take blood thinners after an ablation? ›

Catheter ablation, which destroys a small area of heart tissue that's causing the problematic beats, is recommended for high-risk patients. Patients typically continue to take blood thinners, regardless of whether the ablation procedure was effective.

What medication is given after an ablation? ›

Some inflammation and irritation early on after an ablation can sometime cause AF or extra beats and for this reason your antiarrhythmic medication (sotalol, flecainide or amiodarone) should be continued after the procedure for at least a month or until follow up with your cardiologist.

How long does it take nerves to heal after ablation? ›

It is possible the nerve will regrow through the burned lesion that was created by radiofrequency ablation. If the nerve regrows, it is usually 6-12 months after the procedure. Radiofrequency ablation is 70-80% effective in people who have successful nerve blocks.

Why is ablation a last resort? ›

Your health care provider may recommend AV node ablation if you have atrial fibrillation that hasn't improved with medication or other treatments. It's generally considered the last option because it requires the placement of a pacemaker.

Can you get heart failure after an ablation? ›

Post-ablation HF is a frequent complication following PVI and CTI ablation procedures with 13% of patients requiring prolongation of their initial hospital stay or readmission within 1 week for management of symptomatic HF.

What does an ablation cost? ›

Purchase an Endometrial Ablation (in office) today on MDsave. Costs range from $1,450 to $2,822. Those on high deductible health plans or without insurance can save when they buy their procedure upfront through MDsave. Read more about how MDsave works.

Can you have caffeine after an ablation? ›

Coffee is not recommended right after any form of cardiac surgery, including heart valve surgery.”

Do you need bed rest after ablation? ›

Background: After radiofrequency catheter ablation of arrhythmias, patients have to bed rest for 4-6 h to prevent bleeding and hematoma. However, such a rest may cause back pain in the patients.

How long are you under anesthesia for ablation? ›

Median time to extubation was 9 min (first and third quartile 6-16) after procedure completed, with total anesthesia time of 116 min.

Where is the incision for an ablation? ›

For ablation, a doctor puts catheters (thin hollow tubes) into a blood vessel in the groin and threads it up to the heart giving access to the inside of the heart. The doctor then uses the catheters to scar a small area of the heart by making small burns or small freezes.

How can I strengthen my heart after ablation? ›

An exercise prescription of 200 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Advice regarding salt restriction. Lipid management. Glucose monitoring and treatment.

How long does fatigue last after cardiac ablation? ›

You may also have mild shortness of breath or fatigue. These symptoms are all normal and should subside within 4 to 6 weeks after the procedure. However, please tell your doctor or nurse if your symptoms are prolonged or severe, or if your abnormal heart rhythm reoccurs.

What medications should be stopped before ablation? ›

Hold all medications the morning of the procedure, unless it is your blood thinner. DO NOT STOP your Coumadin, Eliquis, Pradaxa, Savaysa or Xarelto. Take it as usual with a sip of water. Stop your anti-arrhythmic meds (Heart Rhythm Control) 5 days before the procedure.

How long do you stay in the hospital after an ablation? ›

What happens during catheter ablation? A cardiologist performs catheter ablation in the hospital. You will need to stay at the hospital for six to eight hours after the procedure. Depending on your condition, you may go home that day or spend the night at the hospital.

Are you awake or asleep during an ablation? ›

The amount of sedation needed for the procedure depends on your specific arrhythmia and other health conditions. You may be being fully awake or lightly sedated, or you may be given general anesthesia (fully asleep).

Is patient asleep during ablation? ›

You will receive medication for anesthesia because your movement will need to be minimized for the ablation procedure. The most commonly used method of anesthesia is deep sedation or general sedation, which puts you to sleep.


1. What should I expect after the atrial fibrillation ablation procedure?
2. I Had an Ablation to Treat AFIB - 6 Things You Must Know
(Afib Patient Experience)
3. AFib Ablation - Improve Your Success Rate
(Doctor AFib)
4. Cardiac Catheter Ablation: What to Expect
5. New Study on Catheter Ablation Procedures
(Mount Sinai Health System)
6. EP Ablation - Patient Education Video
(Interior Health)


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