Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation

Radiofrequency ablation is a treatment for irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) that is more than 90% effective. Children’s Health provides this and other forms of specialized care for arrhythmias at our Pediatric Electrophysiology Clinic. This is the only electrophysiology program in North Texas that specializes in treating children.

What is Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

Radiofrequency ablation is a process of burning tiny areas of abnormal tissue inside the body. This kills the cells and keeps the abnormal tissue from functioning.

We do this to treat some arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are caused by faulty electrical signals in the heart. By burning the spot where the faulty signal starts, we can stop the arrhythmia from happening.

First, we insert small wires with sensors, known as catheters, into the leg and guide them through blood vessels to the heart. We get a precise image of the heart’s electrical activity that shows us the exact location of the problem. Then we use a special catheter to burn and kill the cells there. The result is the arrhythmia can’t start, and the rest of the heart can function normally.

What are the benefits of a Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

Arrhythmias that involve a rapid heart rate (called tachycardia) can be uncomfortable or distressing and can interfere with sports or activities. In some cases, they can even be life threatening.

Radiofrequency ablation is often a cure for these arrhythmias. It targets the exact source of the arrhythmia and stops it from happening. This allows kids to grow up and play safely and confidently.

What are the side effects of a Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

Side effects are minor. Kids may feel sore or develop bruising in their legs where we inserted the catheters. The soreness usually fades in a day or two.

What are the risks of a Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

The risks are very low for this procedure. It’s possible that the procedure could damage blood vessels between the leg and heart or introduce an infection. There’s also a small possibility that a healthy part of the heart gets injured during the procedure, which can disrupt the normal electrical activity and rhythm. The risk of this is less than 1%.

What are Children’s Health’s outcome metrics for Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

Nine out of 10 patients have no signs of arrhythmia after the procedure. In rare cases, symptoms reappear after a while. This means that some of the tissue responsible for the arrhythmia was only temporarily injured. But most patients are cured and never see their arrhythmia come back.

What to expect with a Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

Your child’s appointment will take most of the day. The procedure takes about four hours, followed by four hours of rest in the clinic. After that, most kids go home.

What to expect before a radiofrequency ablation?

We usually schedule appointments in the morning. After arriving, your child will meet the team, and we will insert an IV. A mild sedative will be given to help your child relax before the procedure.

What to expect during a radiofrequency ablation?

Your child will go under general anesthesia. We insert the sensors and measure the heart. Then we insert the tool and burn the faulty area. Afterward, we test the heart to see if the arrhythmia comes back. Once we confirm we’ve eliminated the cause, we end the procedure.

What to expect after a radiofrequency ablation?

Your child will lay still and quiet for four hours. This lets their legs and blood vessels relax and recover. Your child may sit up a little and read or watch TV. They can eat and drink if they feel comfortable.

We recommend they take it easy the first night and the following day. One the second full day after the procedure, they can resume most normal activities. However, they should avoid sports and exercise for a few more days.

How do I prepare my child for a Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

Your child shouldn’t eat or drink for 12 hours before their procedure. This is a standard recommendation anytime we use general anesthesia, because it prevents kids from vomiting during the procedure and causing problems.

If your child takes heart medicine to suppress their arrhythmia, we’ll ask them to stop taking it during the week before the appointment. This allows us to test and identify what’s causing the arrhythmia in their heart.

What questions should I ask my provider about Pediatric Radiofrequency Ablation?

  • How many radiofrequency ablations have you performed?
  • How long have you and your clinic been doing this procedure?
  • What’s your rate of success and complications?
  • What will happen to my child if they don’t get this procedure?
  • What other treatment options are available?

Frequently Asked Questions

  • When is this procedure necessary?

    Your child might choose ablation if their arrhythmia poses a risk to them or interferes with their life. Some children get this treatment because they don’t like taking medicine regularly, or they tried medicine, but it didn’t work. We will explain all your options so you can make the best decision for your family.

  • Is radiofrequency ablation worth the risk?

    The procedure is very safe, and the possibility that it fixes your child’s arrhythmia is quite high. We give you all the information you need to choose a treatment plan that you and your child are comfortable with.