Cardiac Catheter Ablation
Cardiac catheter ablation is a medical procedure that doctors use as one of the primary treatments for arrhythmias, which are defined as abnormal heartbeats. The heart's electrical system controls the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. Cardiac catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure performed in a special hospital room called an electrophysiology laboratory, or EP Lab. The ablation is performed by a heart doctor who specializes in treating problems of the heart's electrical circuitry. In the ablation procedure, thin wires called catheters are inserted into a large blood vessel in the arm, neck, or upper thigh and guided into the heart, where they are temporarily placed to first identify the cause of the arrhythmia. Once the doctors determine the location where abnormal heartbeats are causing an arrhythmia to start, they destroy (ablate) the abnormal heart tissue with radiofrequency energy delivered by a special machine. Patients often go home the same day or spend one night in the hospital and go home the next morning. This type of catheter ablation offers a cure for many arrhythmias including Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome and AV nodal reentrant tachycardias. It is increasingly used for the treatment of atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.
Watch animation of catheter ablation procedure
UAB Heart & Vascular Services delivers optimal patient care for heart rhythm disorders. You will be cared for by regional and world leaders in the treatment of heart arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, ventricular tachycardia, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, atrioventricular re-entrant tachycardia, and other heart rhythm abnormalities.
Our physicians evaluate the newest treatments and technologies and author professional publications that advance the field of arrhythmia treatment. Their extensive experience and academic backgrounds ensure that they are familiar with all types of heart rhythm disorders. Our academic medical center performs more than 600 heart rhythm-related procedures each year, and our success in treating all types of complex arrhythmias is well-documented. Our electrophysiologists have access to the UAB Heart and Vascular Center, one of the largest of its kind in the Southeast. It features the most advanced technology available, including four procedural suites dedicated to electrophysiology (the electrical signals in the heart). At UAB Medicine you are part of a program that carries out pioneering work in atrial fibrillation and advanced pacemaker and cardioverter defibrillator design.
Images and Videos
Understand the risk factors and symptoms of heart arrhythmias, and when it is important for you to see a doctor.
Arrhythmia Risk Factors, Symptoms, & Treatments
If you've ever felt your heart skip a beat, you may have an arrhythmia. Tom McElderry, MD, an arrhythmia specialist at UAB, talks to Daytime Alabama on WVTM-TV, Channel 13, in Birmingham, Ala., about the symptoms and risk factors of arrhythmia, and what to do if you or a loved one experiences this condition.
UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.View Clinical Trials
Survivor Celebrates One-Year Anniversary of Heart Transplant
Heart disease is often called “the silent killer”, and for good reason. UAB Medicine patient George “Mac” McAllister, for example, had two major heart attacks and never knew it.
His struggle with congestive heart failure reached a critical point in 2009, when breathing troubles led him to UAB, where he was seen by cardiologist Silvio Papapietro, MD.
“He informed me that I’d had two massive heart attacks somewhere along the way,” recalls McAllister, 53, a resident of Hayden, Ala. “I was a walking miracle.”
He underwent quadruple bypass surgery at another hospital and had a defibrillator implanted. His condition improved somewhat, but it would soon require more aggressive treatment.
“I did pretty well for about three years, then I started going off the cliff,” says McAllister, who took medical retirement after the bypass surgery. “When my congestive heart failure was at its worst, my heart function was at 12 percent. I couldn’t walk 10 feet without stopping to rest and take a breath.”
Bridge to TransplantHe returned to UAB in late 2014 and was evaluated by a team of specialists, including James Kirklin, MD, and Salpy Pamboukian, MD. Knowing that McAllister eventually would need a heart transplant, the physicians decided that a left ventricular assist device (LVAD) was the best option for keeping him alive until a suitable donor heart could be located. An LVAD is a surgically implanted device that helps failing hearts pump blood.
McAllister was given a then-experimental type of LVAD called the Evaheart, which was developed in Japan and is larger than most LVADs due to its external cooling system. McAllister was the first patient outside of Japan to receive the Evaheart.
In spring 2015, while on the transplant waiting list, McAllister suffered two strokes in as many months. He was rushed to UAB on both occasions – once by helicopter – and was treated by endovascular neurosurgeon John Deveikis, MD, who performed thrombectomy procedures to remove the blood clots that caused the strokes.
McAllister remained in UAB Hospital following his second stroke. “They told me I would be staying until they found a heart for me,” he says. “I was healthy other than my cardiac situation, so I was a great candidate for a transplant.”
Fortunately, a donor heart was located within two weeks of McAllister’s second stroke, and Dr. Kirklin performed the transplant on June 1, 2015.
“I’m totally hardware-free; I’m all organic again,” he says with a laugh. “I’ll never be picked for the first round of the draft, but I’m able to lead a normal life again. I can breathe, walk, and do my chores.”
Living Off the LandThere’s no shortage of chores on McAllister’s 52-acre farm in Blount County, where he lives with his wife, Pat. In addition to raising chickens and rabbits, they grow a wide variety of vegetables, beans, and other crops, and McAllister tends seven hives of honey bees. His goal is to start a vineyard. The couple consumes or shares nearly everything they produce.
“Honey is a great sweetener, because it doesn’t spike your glycemic levels like other kinds of sugar,” McAllister says. “We’ve become more aware of things you can do about your health, even with your family history and genetics. We eat as healthy as we can when we’re not at home, but fast food is pretty much out. Just about everything at fast food restaurants is loaded with salt.”
McAllister offers high praise for his care team, and he admits that he would not have survived were it not for the cutting-edge treatment and replacement heart he received at UAB. Now a year since the transplant, he returns to UAB monthly for checkups.
“Having a facility like UAB in the heart of Alabama is a wonderful thing,” McAllister says. “The care I received was top-notch. I still love to visit the transplant unit, they’re like family up there. The thing I would relay to others is this: Don’t assume that you can’t get better, or that your condition is just something you have to live with. If something’s bothering you, go see your doctor.”
Click here to learn more about UAB Medicine’s Heart Transplant services. Click here to learn more about UAB Medicine's Heart and Vascular Services.