What it's for

Every beat of your heart is triggered by an electrical impulse. This impulse starts in a node within your heart's right atrium, then travels through the rest of your heart. In some people, that electrical impulse starts traveling on the wrong pathway. This can cause heart rhythm problems like an arrhythmia, otherwise known as palpitations.

An arrhythmia can often be treated with medications. Another method of treating an arrhythmia is a catheter ablation.

In a catheter ablation, an electrophysiologist creates tiny scars in a few of the cells of your heart. These scarred cells create a "roadblock" for the electricity in your heart, forcing the impulses to travel on the right path.

Catheter ablations can frequently cure an arrhythmia completely, so patients no longer have any symptoms or need medications.

At URMC, catheter ablation is used to treat many rhythm problems, including atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. Atrial fibrillation is a "fluttering" of the heart's upper chambers. Ventricular tachycardia is rapid heart beat is the lower chambers that is potentially life threatening.

How it's done

Catheter ablations are performed in the Electrophysiology Lab at URMC. Patients remain awake during this procedure.

You first receive a medication through an IV to help you relax. A small incision is made in your groin area. Thin tubes called catheters are then inserted into this incision.

With the help of x-ray images, the catheters are threaded up to your heart. Your electrophysiologist uses the catheters to detect the faulty electrical pathways that are causing your arrhythmia.

Electrodes on the end of the catheter are then used to create tiny scars on the wall of your heart. These scars act as roadblocks to keep your heart's electrical impulses traveling in the right direction.

Catheter ablations typically take from 3-6 hours, depending on complexity. After your ablation procedure, you need to wait several hours in the recovery area.

Most patients who have ablation procedures go home the same day, while some patients need to stay overnight in the hospital.


Catheter ablations are considered a minimally invasive procedure. Even so, there are several risks that patients should know about:

  • Bleeding from the incision site
  • Puncture of the heart
  • Damage to blood vessels by catheter
  • Blood clots
  • Worsened arrhythmia symptoms

Technology and expertise at URMC

URMC is a world leader in heart rhythm disorders. Doctors here led research that has changed the way heart rhythm disorders are treated around the world.

We offer the most advanced and effective heart rhythm treatments to our patients. We perform more treatments for heart rhythm disorders than any other hospital in the area. In many cases, the treatments we provide are not available anywhere else in the region.

URMC Cardiology has three fully equipped labs for ablation and device implants. They are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively on heart rhythm disorders. Our newest lab provides robotic navigation for radiofrequency ablation, giving our patients even greater precision, safety and versatility.

Who to contact

For more information on catheter ablations at URMC, contact us at (585) 275-4775.

Medicine of the Highest Order