The electrical system of the heart controls each heartbeat. Electrical impulses generated by special tissue (nodes) travel set pathways through the heart causing the muscle to contract, or “beat” (see fig. 1). When abnormal electrical signals interfere with the normal flow of impulses, an irregular heartbeat occurs.
Cardiac ablation is a procedure used to correct irregular heartbeats by destroying the tissue that creates the abnormal electrical signals. A catheter is threaded into the heart and the tip is guided to the area producing abnormal electrical signals (see fig. 3). The catheter then emits a pulse of high-energy electricity that destroys the abnormal tissue and corrects the irregular heartbeat (see fig. 4).
Figure 1: Electrical pathway through the heart: SA node to AV node; through the Bundle of His and the Bundle branch fibers.
Figure 2: Heart with tissue producing abnormal signals.
Figure 3: Ablation catheter guided into the heart emitting high-energy electricity that destroys abnormal tissue.
Figure 4: Heart with inactivated tissue that can resume normal function.
Visit Houston Cardiovascular Institute Website for more information.