This procedure is done to disable heart cells that cause uneven heartbeats called arrhythmias. After the procedure, the heartbeats should be normal.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
The care team may meet with you to talk about:
The doctor will give local anesthesia. The area will be numbed. You may get other medicine to help you relax.
The doctor will insert a tube (catheter) into a blood vessel. The groin, upper thigh area, arm, or wrist can be used. The catheter is passed through a blood vessel to the heart. X-rays will help guide the catheter to the right place.
Pathway of Catheter Toward the Heart
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The doctor will locate the problem area. This will be done by setting off the arrhythmia with the catheter tip. When found, the area is cooled with the tip. The cold will temporarily stop the arrhythmia. The heart should then beat normally. If it is not the right area, the tip is removed. The tissue will not be damaged.
The tubes will be taken out and the area will be bandaged.
3 to 6 hours, but it could be longer
You may feel some minor discomfort as the catheter is inserted. You may feel lightheaded or feel a fast heartbeat or chest pain during the freezing process.
Most people stay overnight. If there problems, the stay may be longer.
The healthcare staff will watch your vital signs. They will also care for the insertion site.
Most can return to normal activities in a few days.
Call your doctor if you are not feeling better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Heart Association
Heart Rhythm Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Ablation for arrhythmias. American Heart Association website. Available at: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/arrhythmia/prevention--treatment-of-arrhythmia/ablation-for-arrhythmias#.W0On_tVKhQI. Accessed August 27, 2021.
Andrade JG, Wells GA, et al. Cryoablation or drug therapy for initial treatment of atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(4):305-315.
Catheter ablation. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/catheter-ablation. Accessed August 27, 2021.
Catheter ablation. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/catheter-ablation. Accessed August 27, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Nicole Meregian, PA
Last Updated: 8/27/2021