What is alcohol septal ablation?

Alcohol septal ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure used to treat hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a genetic heart condition that is characterized by an abnormally thick heart muscle. The septum wall separates the two lower chambers of the heart (left and right ventricles). In patients who suffer from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the septum wall may thicken abnormally and bulge into the left ventricle, blocking the flow of blood to the body. The extra pressure on the heart caused by this abnormality may cause shortness of breath, weakness and fatigue.

An alcohol septal ablation can relieve your symptoms and decrease the risk for future complications. Mercy Health cardiovascular experts have vast experience treating hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients through both open heart and minimally-invasive techniques including alcohol septal ablation.

Who is a candidate for alcohol septal ablation?

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy patients who are not responding to medication management for their condition may be candidates for alcohol septal ablation. Most patients who undergo an alcohol septal ablation experience symptom relief soon after the procedure. 

What to expect when having a minimally-invasive septal ablation?

During an alcohol septal ablation procedure, your doctor will insert a catheter with a balloon at the tip into the groin area and thread it to the artery that carries blood to the septum. Once the balloon is in place, your surgeon will inject pure alcohol through the catheter into the area of the heart that is abnormally thick. Because alcohol is toxic to heart muscle, some of the heart muscle will shrink and die. As a result, blood flow through the heart and to the body is improved.
What are benefits of an alcohol septal ablation?

An alcohol septal ablation can be performed via a minimally-invasive procedure in the cardiac catheterization lab via an IV rather than in an open-heart procedure. Patients typically experience symptom relief and have an improved quality of life after the procedure.

What are risks alcohol septal ablation?

Although most patients who have an alcohol septal ablation have a successful outcome, there are risks associated with the procedure. Patients who are older and have other heart conditions are at higher risk of having complications.

Risks associated with alcohol septal ablation include:

  • Heart block - one of the most common complications that occurs when the electrical signals to the heart are disrupted, which results in a slowed heart rate
  • Arrhythmia
  • Bradycardia
  • Blood clots 
  • Abnormal fluid buildup around the heart 
  • Complications in the coronary arteries
  • Infection 
  • Shock 

Recovery from alcohol septal ablation?

Patients spend three to four days in the hospital after having an alcohol septal ablation. During this time, your cardiac team will closely monitor your vital signs, the incision site and your overall health before clearing you to discharge. 

Once you have been discharged, it is important to gradually return to your normal activities. Follow your Mercy Health doctor’s recommendations on diet, exercise and follow-up appointments.

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