If you have your procedure as an outpatient, you will arrive at the Day Unit either from home or by ambulance from a referring hospital.
The Day Unit is located on the first floor. Take the elevators from the main lobby at the Heart Institute up to the first floor. Once there, follow the path of green hearts to the Day Unit.
You will be in the Day Unit until you are ready to go to the EP Lab. Before you go for the procedure, the doctor will come and meet with you in the Day Unit. This will be a good time to ask any final questions.
Only one relative or friend will be allowed to sit with you while you are waiting because space is limited. During your procedure, your relative or friend can wait in the lounge area. When your procedure is completed, the staff will notify your designated contact person. Visiting hours in the Day Unit are from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Once you are in the Day Unit, the final preparations for your procedure will start. You will change into a hospital gown. Your groin area will be clipped of hair and cleaned. You will have an intravenous (IV) tube placed in your arm.
Make sure the nurse knows the name, phone number and location of your designated contact person.
During Your Procedure
Your procedure will take place in the EP Lab at the Heart Institute. You will be tended to by a team of doctors, nurses and lab technologists. All staff will be wearing gowns and special lead aprons. In most cases, you will receive general anesthetic, which will cause you to sleep throughout the entire procedure.
After you are asleep, you will be hooked up to a variety of monitors and equipment. You may have a tube inserted to drain the urine from your bladder.
Once all the monitors are in place, the doctor will insert anywhere from three to five soft catheters through the large blood vessels in your groin or, possibly, your neck. These catheters will be guided to the inner chambers of your heart. A small amount of X-ray imaging will be used to help with the proper placement of the catheters.
Each catheter has an electrode at its tip that allows the electrophysiologist to map out the electrical activity in your heart. Once the catheters are properly positioned, the areas inside your heart that are generating abnormal signals will be located.
Each spot receives one or more applications of radio-frequency electrical current to burn out the tiny abnormal area. There are usually multiple areas of abnormal activity that need to be carefully identified and targeted, which is why it is often a long procedure.
Once the ablation is completed, there is further observation and testing to ensure that the arrhythmia is no longer present. Sometimes the ablation needs to be repeated. When the team is satisfied with the results, the catheters are removed. Once you are ready, you will be taken back to the Day Unit to recover.
For the Contact Person
A complex ablation procedure may take up to several hours or all day. It is not easy to predict how long you will be in the EP Lab. Instead of having your family member or friend sitting in the lounge for several hours, it may be easier to designate a contact person who can be called once your procedure is done.