Ventricular Tachycardia Ablation
Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is an abnormal rapid heart rhythm originating from the lower pumping chambers of the heart (ventricles). The normal heart usually beats between 60 and 100 times per minute, with the atria contracting first, followed by the ventricles in a synchronized fashion. In VT, the ventricles beat at a rapid rate, typically from 120 to 300 beats per minute, and are no longer coordinated with the atria.
The controlled contraction of the ventricles is important for the heart to pump blood to the brain and the rest of the body and to maintain a normal blood pressure. Abnormal and fast rhythms from the ventricle may impair the ability of the pump to supply blood to the brain and the rest of the body as a result of the rapid rate and weak contractions. This may result in palpitations (a feeling of rapid or abnormal heart beat), dizziness, lightheadedness, or syncope (loss of consciousness). If the heart rate increases to more than 300 beats per minute and becomes totally uncoordinated, this is usually called ventricular fibrillation (VF), which will cause sudden cardiac death.
VT occurs most commonly in patients with weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy) or when scar tissue develops in the heart. In patients with coronary artery disease (blockage of blood vessels on the surface of the heart), this scar is the result of a prior heart attack (myocardial infarction) when the muscle dies as a result of a blockage in blood flow. Scar, or fibrosis, can interfere with the normal electrical impulse in the heart, leading to a short-circuiting of the rhythm, called reentry. VT can also occur in patients with normal hearts by a different mechanism whereby the electric conduction is overly excitable, like a muscle twitch.
Catheter ablation has been used to treat heart rhythm disorders for more than 25 years. This procedure targets the origin of the VT by placing a long, thin wire or catheter into the heart chambers through the veins of the leg. When areas that are critical to the arrhythmia are identified, a localized delivery of radiofrequency energy is applied, which produces a small burn about 4 to 5 mm in diameter. The number of burns required to treat the VT varies among patients. In patients with scar tissue in the heart, ablations may be performed within the scar and around its perimeter to cauterize or ablate the abnormal electric circuit responsible for the VT.