Cryoablation uses extremely cold temperature to destroy cells. Cardiac catheter cryoablation is used to destroy selected heart cells.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to disable heart cells that are creating irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. After the procedure, normal heart rhythm should be restored.

Possible Complications

Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review possible problems such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain where the cathether was inserted
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to nearby structures
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Heart attack

Your chances of problems are higher for:

  • Smoking
  • Chronic disease such as diabetes or obesity
  • The type of heart problems you have

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

You may have an electrophysiology study to pinpoint where the arrhythmia is.

Leading up to your procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may need to stop some up to 1 week in advance.
  • Don't eat or drink anything for up to 8 hours before the procedure.


Local anesthesia is used. It will numb the area where the catheter is placed. You may get a mild sedative to relax you.

Description of Procedure

An ablation catheter will be inserted 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
PIB image for cryoblation

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Your doctor will locate the origin of your arrhythmia. 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. If it’s not the right area, the tip is removed. The tissue will not be damaged.

The tubes will be removed and the area will be bandaged.

Immediately After Procedure

You will be moved to a recovery room.

If the groin was used, you will likely need to lie still and flat on your back for a period of time. A pressure dressing will help control bleeding.

How Long Will It Take?

3-6 hours, but it could be longer

How Much Will It Hurt?

You may feel some minor discomfort as the catheter is inserted. You may feel lightheaded, experience a rapid heartbeat, or experience chest pain during the freezing process.

Average Hospital Stay

Most people stay overnight for further observation. If you have problems, you may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

The healthcare staff will watch your vital signs. They will also care for the insertion site to make sure there aren’t any problems.

At Home

To help you heal faster:

  • Take aspirin as advised. You may need it for 2-4 weeks to lower your chances of blood clots.
  • Care for the insertion site to prevent infection.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if any of these occur:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, pain, excess bleeding, or pus from where the catheter was inserted
  • Your leg feels cold, turns white or blue, or becomes numb or tingly
  • Coughing or breathing problems
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the jaw, chest, neck, arms, or upper back
  • Lightheadedness or weakness

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.


American Heart Association

Heart Rhythm Society


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Heart and Stroke Foundation


Ablation for arrhythmias. American Heart Association website. Available at: Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed July 9, 2018.

Catheter ablation. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:,45. Accessed July 9, 2018.

Catheter ablation. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed July 9, 2018.

Miller JM, Zipes DP. Cardiology patient page. Catheter ablation of arrhythmias. Circulation. 2002;106(25):e203-205.

6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 7/9/2018