Catheter ablation of atrial flutter

Catheter ablation for atrial flutter is usually done under local anaesthetic with sedation into a vein and takes around 60 to 90 minutes. It can be done as a day case procedure.

Two small tubes are passed into the vein at the top of the leg using a needle puncture once the skin has gone numb. Catheters are passed through these tubes and positioned in the heart using X-ray. One of these catheters is used to cauterise the area in the heart (between the tricuspid valve and the inferior vena cava) that is giving rise to the electrical circuit which gives rise to atrial flutter.

The success rate for this procedure is in the order of 90-95% with a small number of patients needing a second procedure. Bruising is common, but vascular damage or cardiac perforation are rare. Serious complications such as heart attack, stroke or death are less than 1 in 2000, and the risk of damage requiring a pacemaker is much less than 1 in 200.

If you are in atrial flutter at the time of the procedure then it is done with ongoing anticoagulation (blood thinning) which should be at a treatment level for at least 3 weeks beforehand.

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