Surgeons use cryoablation, which is cold energy or freezing, to destroy a small section of damaged heart tissue that is acting as a source of abnormal electrical activity and causing or contributing to some types of tachycardia. Tachycardia is a form of arrhythmia in which rapid heartbeats are caused by damage from a previous heart attack, and it can lead to sudden cardiac death.
Medication often is an effective treatment option for patients with arrhythmias. However, if medication is unsuccessful or causes unfavorable side effects, a minimally invasive procedure called cryoablation may be the next best approach.
Traditional radiofrequency ablation uses heat to ablate (or destroy) the area of the heart causing abnormal electrical impulses, which can cause permanent damage to heart muscle containing the abnormal circuitry.
In some circumstances, the abnormal heart muscle may be in very close proximity to healthy heart muscle containing vital conduction circuitry, which makes traditional radiofrequency ablation a higher-risk procedure and can lead to a complete heart blockage, necessitating pacemaker implantation.
An alternative is cryoablation, during which a catheter is inserted through the groin and guided to the heart to safely "freeze" areas that are causing the arrhythmia.
In the early phase of cryoablation, the damaged tissue can be thawed and reversed back to normal if unintended effects to healthy tissues are noted. This gives physicians a valuable tool to provide an effective cure for certain cardiac arrhythmias with a much lower risk of complications.
According to physicians on the Texas Health medical staff, many patients who undergo cryoablation therapy are back on their feet just hours after the procedure.