Radio Frequency Not Impressed.

I have recently had radio frequency catheter ablation for my Supra ventricular tachycardia. In laymans terms I had 5 catheters inserted into my groin on both sides and pushed up into my heart. Under xray the catheters were moved around whilst I was injected with a drug that tripped my heart into abnormal rhythm. The surgeon then looked for the extra pathways that were causing my heart to speed up and burnt them off.

I was told that the procedure wasn't painful, sadly I didn't find this to be the case. Whether it was down to the surgeons incompetance or my sheer terror, it's fair to say I felt everything. Every time the catherters were moved about, I could feel them and my groin was very sore. The fact that I had to lay completely still with an xray machine about an inch from my face was very claustrophobic and opressive. When the surgeon decided to begin burning, he said I might feel some warm sensation in my chest...well if 'warm sensation' meant agonising burning pains, he was correct. I felt every single burn and my whole body was shaking. The back of my hair was wet because I could not stem the tears from flowing and all the time he kept saying 'You have to lay still'...I wanted to yell at him 'You try laying still while someone burns lumps off of your heart!!!'

I asked on several occasions for some pain relief but nobody said a word, it was like being trapped in a horrible nightmare where I was being tortured.

After the procedure I had to lay down for 3 hours. The day unit was closing and I could feel the tension of the staff to get me out. Three hours turned into two and a quarter hours and they hurridly asked me to stand up. As soon as I got off of the trolly, I could feel my heart racing with palpitations. I walked out to the bathroom and felt faint...still my heart raced and didn't stop until I lay down again. I informed the staff who told me it would settle down, so I got dressed and struggled to get down to the car...I felt exhausted and went straight to bed when I got home.

The next day, it was apparent that things wern't right. Every time I moved my heart began to race and I was short of breath. Whatever was going on was far worse than the previous SVT that I had had before. Now insted of having intermittent periods of palpitations, I was getting them everytime I moved.

I phoned Kings college Hospital where I had had the procedure and spoke to the surgeon, he was completely stagnant and just told me he had never heard of this before and I should go to my local hospital or to my doctor!!!

I called the hospital where I work and where I am under a cardiologist. I was told to go straight to the coronary unit and was given an ECG. My heart was tripping in and out of SVT on exertion. A slow walk was telling my heart that I was running and it reached 150bpm...I was very upset to say the least.

Luckily my cardiologist was there and he said I had to stay in the hospital and be started on anti arrithmic drugs (the very thing I had wanted to avoid by having the surgery)
I was started on Verapamil and then after 24 hours and no improvement I was also started on Flecanide (both heavy duty drugs)

I stayed in the hospital for 4 days until the drugs got some sort of control over my heart. The cardiologist came to see me and said he had spoken to the surgeon at Kings and what I was experiencing was most likely some kind of shock because they had burnt so much off of my heart. He told me that I could go home on the drugs and that Kings would be in's been a week and a half and still I haven't heard.

I am off of work, cannot drive (although I am doing short journeys to the shops because I live alone and need to buy food) and I cannot exercise. I am like a sitting duck, just waiting for someone to tell me what to do. I have made an appointment with my GP on Monday, mostly to earth myself and have someone watch over me whilst I am taking such high levels of anti arrithmics. If my palps are due to 'shock' surely it isn't advisable to blindly continue to take the drugs when my heart may be healing. The palps have improved but it could be because things are settling down and this I need to know because it's dangerous to continue medication if it isnt necessary.

The entire experience has been extremely frightning and worrying. I feel let down that I have been handled so abruptly and so inconsistently. It's difficult to know if I will ever get SVT again and it is possible I could end up with a pacer. I still have healing to do but I am longing to get back to normal life, to get back to working out and to get back to work.

If you are going to have ablation...have sedation.
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4 Responses Nov 20, 2011

I had an ablation in December with sedation and I am sorry you had a terrible experience. If I had read this I would of never went through with the procedure. I was fine until recently the SVT's are back and more problematic than before. I am back on the medication and waiting to go back on the monitor which there is a waiting list of 30 people. During the ablation the doctor was able to detect two areas he fix one but the other that was too risky. I had svt’s now for about 12 years and I was good on the medication and in December it stopped working. I was good for three months and now they started all over again but they are different than before; more annoying.

I am so sorry you had such a frightening and horribly disappointing experience! It sounds like the medical center wasn't very up to date on their methods. Before my procedure, they told me that for 6 weeks my heart might act up more than normal for being messed with.<br />
<br />
I also work at the medical center where I had an unsuccessful EP study - there was supposed to be an ablation but for some reason my heart kept converting back to normal on its own. I couldn't believe it when the doc told me that - first time he'd seen it. WHY ME ?!?!<br />
<br />
Anyway, though they did sedate me, it wasn't with full sedation and so when they were pumping me full of adrenaline for nearly an hour, I was also awake and could feel everything. It wasn't painful, I think because I was given Versed - which makes you forget. But I do remember the anesthesiologist being very rude.<br />
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Now, I have more palpataions and SVT than ever. I am currently wearing a 30 day event monitor but I'm wondering whats the point. If the EP study/ablation didn't work, why bother. I think I need to go to Mayo and see what the REAL problem is.<br />
<br />
I hear ya and wanted to let you know you're not fighting this battle alone.<br />
<br />
So, today, two months later

Jo,<br />
Your story sound very similar to my 8 yr old son. He has had two ablations and he <br />
is now feeling heart racing again!! He has a monitor again to see if we can catch it but<br />
have not been successful! It is so frustrated for him to got through this all again. We also<br />
we trying to avoid the stronger medicines because we tried all the safer ones that didn't work. <br />
Do you find that there is any pattern to the SVT episodes? He had 3-4 and now hasn't had any in a month. He also isn't as active in the winter than the other seasons...<br />

I'd be inclined to speak to a solicitor. That'll get them moving to sort out your problems.