Why Am I So Tired After My Cardiac Ablation?

Ablation is an effective procedure used in cardiology to treat many arrhythmias. However, many patients experience fatigue after the intervention. In this blog, we will take a close look at why this tiredness occurs after a cardiac ablation. We will discuss the factors contributing to this fatigue, the typical recovery timeline, and some strategies to manage this common post-procedure symptom.
Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Fifth year medical student at the Medical Faculty of Comenius University in Bratislava.

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Why am I so tired after my cardiac ablation?

Tiredness after cardiac ablation is a common side effect, and is influenced by several factors.

Firstly, cardiac ablation takes between three and six hours to complete. The procedure is usually done under general anesthesia. After such a long time under the influence of anesthesia, it is normal to feel tired, especially during the first 2 days after the procedure [1].

Secondly, ablation damages parts of the heart. The affected regions, as well as the catheter entry location, need to heal. The healing can take up to three months. However, usually, you can expect to regain your strength already after two months [2].

Thirdly, after the ablation, there is still a chance of experiencing arrhythmia. It takes some time before the ablation takes its ultimate effect [2].

It is important to remember that the tiredness after the ablation is not related to the success or failure of the treatment.

How long does it take to recover after catheter ablation?

Even though catheter ablation is minimally invasive, it has a relatively long recovery period. After approximately one month, you can expect the fatigue to disappear, and after three months, the healing process in the heart is usually completed.

However, it is crucial to remember that everyone is different, and some people recover more quickly than others. For example, patients with severe cardiac dysfunction can need 12 months of convalescence, or even more [3].

Once the healing is completed and side effects of the procedure subside, it is time to determine the success or failure of the procedure [2].

A cardiologist should measure the electrical activity of your heart, to determine whether the ablation was successful [2]. If the ECG shows no abnormalities and you do not experience any cardiac symptoms, the procedure can be declared a success.

How can I feel less tired after catheter ablation?

There are several strategies you can adopt to help manage fatigue and regain your energy more quickly after a cardiac ablation.

Firstly, it's important to give your body time to heal. Rest time and no extreme overloads for the heart are crucial to facilitating the healing process [2]. If you feel tired, you should take your time and relax. Be careful not to overstrain the healing heart, and take it easy.

Secondly, to promote the recovery process, you can adjust your lifestyle. Make sure to:

  • Include regular physical activity - Your doctor will tell you when you can begin moderate exercise.
  • Have a balanced diet
  • Get enough sleep
  • Manage your stress [2].

Importantly, don't forget to visit your doctor regularly to monitor the heart’s function. This is a preventive measure to discover unexpected complications as soon as possible. [2].

What is important to remember after catheter ablation?

Catheter ablation is minimally invasive and is generally considered a safe procedure. However, it can still have complications.

Up to 5% of all catheter ablations can lead to serious complications [4]. Depending on the type of arrhythmia you are treated for, the compilation can be more or less frequent.

The smallest rates of below 1% are found in supraventricular tachycardia, while the highest (6%) were noticed in ventricular tachycardia linked with structural abnormalities [5].

You should remember that complications can happen and can prolong your recovery time [6].

If you were treated for atrial fibrillation, it is common to experience it even after the procedure. In fact in nearly half of the patients, atrial fibrillation reoccurs after one year after the procedure [7].

You should be prepared for the option that the ablation will have to be repeated. It is not rare to redo the procedure. For example, one study indicated that nearly 30% of patients with post-infarct ventricular tachycardia had to repeat the therapy at least once [8].

Lastly, in all cases, regular follow-ups are important. They can be helpful in early recognition of the return of the arrhythmia. For example, in atrial fibrillation, early detection is important to adjust the therapy to prevent thromboembolic events [9].

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Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub Gwiazdecki

Jakub is in his fifth year as a medical student at Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia. He has special interested in cardiology and in patient-centered medicine. His love for heart health isn't just book-smarts; he wants to know how it works, what it means for our feelings, and how key it is for health and happiness. Jakub thinks real good health care comes from always putting the patient at the centre, treating each person as a whole.