What is Ablation?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Ablation therapy is used to destroy the lining of the uterus if a woman is struggling with excessive menstrual bleeding.
Ablation therapy is used to destroy the lining of the uterus if a woman is struggling with excessive menstrual bleeding.

Ablation is a medical technique used to remove tissue from the body through radio-wave frequencies. It is used to treat many different medical problems. Among its many applications are cardiac ablation, endometrial ablation, surface ablation, and liver tumor removal.

Cardiac ablation is used to eliminate heart arrhythmia caused by improper tissue arrangement or placement within the heart. Tissue can block the regular electrical signals the heart sends, causing arrhythmia. In some cases, previous surgical repair of the heart can lead over time to a “short circuit” in the heart.

Common side effects of endometrial ablation include pain and cramping.
Common side effects of endometrial ablation include pain and cramping.

An electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in the study and treatment of unusual rhythm patterns, performs ablation with a catheter. The catheter is usually inserted through an artery in the thigh and threaded up to the heart tissue that is causing the problems. Radiofrequent energy is then used to destroy the tissue.

This type of ablation has a great deal of success, but implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator may also be necessary. Cardiac ablation is used to treat atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and some forms of tachycardia. It has over a 90% success rate with no further interventions required.

A pacemaker may be needed to treat cardiac ablation.
A pacemaker may be needed to treat cardiac ablation.

Endometrial ablation is used to treat women who suffer excessive bleeding during their menstrual cycle, or those who have endometriosis. It is used in preference to a hysterectomy, but since it destroys the lining of the uterus, it frequently results in infertility. In this type of ablation, a small camera on a hysteroscope is used to view the uterine walls. The uterus is filled with liquid, and an instrument that generates heat, which is attached to the hysteroscope, is employed to destroy the uterine lining.

A hysteroscope is commonly used during the endrometrial ablation procedure for women who have excessive bleeding during their menstrual cycle.
A hysteroscope is commonly used during the endrometrial ablation procedure for women who have excessive bleeding during their menstrual cycle.

Endometrial ablation is an outpatient procedure and takes less than an hour to perform. It is performed while the patient is sedated, but not under general anesthesia, unless it is combined with several procedures. Discomfort after the procedure lasts for only a few days.

Newer ablation techniques are used in conjunction with or in place of Lasik® eye surgery. This procedure is called surface ablation, and removes tissue directly at the corneal surface, as opposed to under the cornea. This procedure is fairly new, but early studies suggest it may have a better outcome than Lasik®, in terms of the eye’s ability to refract light.

Artificial pacemakers can greatly increase the life expectancy of patients with congenital heart defects.
Artificial pacemakers can greatly increase the life expectancy of patients with congenital heart defects.

Ablation is also used to remove tumors in the liver. Clinical studies have evaluated the effectiveness of ablation for tumors that originate in the liver, as well as those that have metastasized from the colon. Removal of benign liver tumors has seen the most success, and generally the tumor or tumors must be relatively small for the procedure to work. In the future, scientists hope to be able to improve on this technology to address larger tumors and those that are malignant.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon7268

what about ablation of a kidney tumor?

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    • Ablation therapy is used to destroy the lining of the uterus if a woman is struggling with excessive menstrual bleeding.
      By: blueringmedia
      Ablation therapy is used to destroy the lining of the uterus if a woman is struggling with excessive menstrual bleeding.
    • Common side effects of endometrial ablation include pain and cramping.
      By: ryanking999
      Common side effects of endometrial ablation include pain and cramping.
    • A pacemaker may be needed to treat cardiac ablation.
      By: Carolina K Smith MD
      A pacemaker may be needed to treat cardiac ablation.
    • A hysteroscope is commonly used during the endrometrial ablation procedure for women who have excessive bleeding during their menstrual cycle.
      By: krishnacreations
      A hysteroscope is commonly used during the endrometrial ablation procedure for women who have excessive bleeding during their menstrual cycle.
    • Artificial pacemakers can greatly increase the life expectancy of patients with congenital heart defects.
      By: Patricia Marks
      Artificial pacemakers can greatly increase the life expectancy of patients with congenital heart defects.