AF Association
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What to expect when you're ablating

I am scheduled for my first ablation in 3 weeks. It would be great if I could get one piece of advice from ablation vets about what they wish they had known before the procedure that would have made the experience better either physically or emotionally. Thanks!

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I had a general anaesthetic and something connected to it caused my lips to keep drying out and smarting. During the post-procedure lie-in of 4 hours I had wet paper hankies covering my mouth. A tube of lip salve would have solved the problem.

Have a sports bottle of water and whatever you need alongside you to ease the boredom of the lie-in.

You will find that it's all routine to the staff. There's nothing to be frightened about. Just prepare well, go with the flow and stay calm.

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Jenny's right, not a lot to worry about really. Because they are likely to insert the catheters in the groin area there will may be some shaving to be done, so be prepared for that. After the procedure, I had to lie still for 8 hours which is a bit unusual, around 4 hours is the norm, so I was pleased I had some downloads to watch to help pass the time, but don't forget to take earphones because others may not share your taste in films or music!

Make sure you have transport and help to get home as carrying stuff, and extensive walking is a no no....especially up stairs. You should do nothing for the first week, and not much more for the second, then gradually ease into your normal routine and don't be surprised or disappointed if you experience a few episodes, ectopics or runs of rapid heart beat during the first 3 months or so. Make sure you get contact details prior to discharge so that you can seek help in the unlikely event of having a problem.

If you enter RF ablation or cryoablation in the search box you will find lots of helpful information......best of luck, and please let us know how you get on......

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Most important thing I learned was that unlike what I had been lead to believe I was not fit to dance out of the hospital the next day.

"Most people can go back to work in a couple of days" . " You mustn't drive for a week"

These sort of comments are rubbish and do not help. I felt a complete failure !

OK I think now driving is banned for 48 hours but I doubt you will fell ,like it. As for going back to work. Maybe if you are a tester in a bed factory?

After my second ablation the specialist nurse told me "do nothing for the first week and not a lot more for the second and then gradually ease back in. " or as John above put it first week TV remote and second you can make the tea.

It take three to six months for full recovery so be patient and don't push recovery. Just because you do not have a giant zip up your front does not mean that you haven't had a serious assault on your heart and it needs time to heal. If you have a GA you will doubtless have a few memory lapses for a while afterwards. I killed two kettles!

Another thing you should expect is migraine aura which may come and go for a couple of weeks. This is due to the transeptal puncture but nobody seems to know why and it comes as a shock to most of us.

Bottom line is it is all worth it , even the Brazilian , but you do need patience.

Bob

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I think the thing that I had not fully wrapped my brain around was the possibility, even the likelihood that there would be episodes of A Fib as the heart heals post ablation. When I went into AFib the next day in the hospital after diuretics had been given to decrease the fluid load from my ablation, I was convinced that the whole thing had been for naught. It took two cardioversions and new meds to get it all right, but it has been right for the two years since. Remember, you only get one chance to heal gently from this ablation. Protect your heart and take it really easy. Best of luck to you!

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As others have said, take it easy afterwards. I know some people have gone back to work right away, but I certainly couldn't have. Depends on what exactly the docs end up doing I guess. I was very tired for a week or two. Though 3 weeks out went to a multi day conference and gave an hour long presentation. Maybe it was all the meds, but I felt good. Has taken a long time for symptoms to simmer down though. Be patient would be my one bit of advice.

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I was fortunate to have a cardioligist team that told me everything they would be doing and how. They didn't have to alter their plans at all. This is my 5th week and I'm doing great. I strongly advise you to take great care with the surgical sites. I had sites in both legs and one in my neck. The neck site was unexpected but not at all unusual as I was told aforehand. Infection and bleeding is a big concern at these sites. Do as they say and all will be fine. Don't over do anything or you will end up with other problems. I was antsy also but all will pass. Keep me updated.

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I have had ablations for AF in left atria, flutter in right and flutter in left. I will be repeating what others have said, but ...the AF can take longer amounts of time because they have to find the wacky electric paths. I was under general for all three and found the longer I was under, the longer it took to recover. I felt some achiness in my chest, but certainly not unbearable. The most discomfort I felt was in my throats from the TEE; you could sound raspy. It will help to drink cold water and not talk a lot! I had to remain lying down for 4 hours, but was ok, just dozed mostly, you will not feel like dancing! It takes some time too to get the anesthesia out of your system. Nurses checked the groin area a lot, and told me to put light pressure on it if I needed to cough or sneeze. No stairs for 2 days, for me, but if it's a must, remember the adage: up with the good, down with the bad. Meaning if going up stairs, take steps one at a time leading with your good leg; going down, take one at a time leading with your bad leg, the one where catheter was inserted. This keeps affected leg straight during the climb. Obviously, follow your release instructions which will include things to watch for, mostly associated with groin site, not your pesky heart!

Best of luck!

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Yes, to everyone saying that being quite wrung out for a week or two can be normal. I was put under for mine, had not too much discomfort during recovery at all. But the anesthesia made me loopy for 3 days (memory gaps) and I was weak as a kitten for about 9 days. Also, I have read some interesting articles (wish I could find them now) that people who have heart surgery (specifically studied open heart surgery) get depression almost as a routine side-effect, but no one mentions it. What made me remember this, was after my ablation I felt very low, very hopeless for no reason at all. I remembered the articles and wondered if an ablation could cause depressions symptoms too. It helped me just to know it was a possibility. And in about 3 weeks, I was back to my old self and feeling good.

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Thanks to everyone for responding. This is all very helpful. I think knowing what to expect will make any discomfort easier to deal with. I was hoping to go back to work in a couple of days (from home/desk job)) but from what I am hearing, that may be ambitious.

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Some people can go back to work more quickly, especially if you can sit, and your work isn't stressful. Pain from recovery was not an issue at all for me. But when I say I was weak as a kitten, as an example, just going up stairs...I was physically able to...but would be grey, shaking, and limp from just that mild exertion. Even family visits, while sitting in a chair, would have me taking a very long nap afterward. The amazing thing was, after 9 days of being weak and wiped out, on the 10th day I was 85% back to normal and working felt good. Trust your body. You will know when you are able to take on work. Good luck with the ablation. My quality of life is sooo much better after mine.

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When you get an ablation they insert a catheter because you are lying still for a long time and they flush a lot of liquids through you. I was on the table for 5 hours and a lie-in of 8 hours. Insertion of the catheter was uncomfortable so when I had my second ablation two years later, I asked the doctor to have the catheter inserted in the operating room when I was under anesthesia. It is also a more sterile environment which helps to prevent infection. The first time I got a UTI which took me 3 months to get rid of. The second time -- no problem. Other than that issue, my ablation was relatively easy. Mild achy feeling in the chest, sore throat for a day or so from the TEE and the groin sites were tender to the touch. But in a week or less I was back to normal. I read that some people had a hardier time but I guess everyone reacts differently. I would definitely not shy away from it. If it works, it's a great feeling to be afib free and I was off meds except for a very low dose of a beta-blocker.

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