Know cryoablation, the novel method of freezing away health issues

Cryoablation is used to selectively freeze areas of the heart muscle that are causing the arrhythmia, to restore normal heart rhythm. Representational image: blueshot / iStock

Cryoablation, a medical procedure gaining prominence in recent years, offers a minimally invasive approach to treating a range of health conditions by using the power of extreme cold. This innovative technique has proven effective in various medical fields, from oncology to cardiology, as a way to target and eliminate abnormal tissues or cells.

What is Cryoablation?

Cryoablation is a medical procedure that uses extreme cold to destroy abnormal tissue, such as tumours or abnormal heart tissue. During cryoablation, a thin, flexible probe or catheter is inserted through a small incision or natural opening in the body and guided to the site of the abnormal tissue. The tip of the probe is then cooled to very low temperatures using a gas, such as argon or nitrogen, which causes the tissue to freeze. As the tissue freezes, ice crystals form inside the cells, causing them to rupture and die. The dead tissue is eventually absorbed by the body and replaced with healthy tissue. 

Cryoablation for Arrhythmias

Cryoablation is recommended for arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia, when other treatments, such as medication or cardioversion, have not been effective. Arrhythmias are caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the heart, which can lead to a rapid or irregular heartbeat. Cryoablation is used to selectively freeze areas of the heart muscle that are causing the arrhythmia, to restore normal heart rhythm. 

Cryoablation is particularly effective for treating certain types of arrhythmias that originate in the pulmonary veins, which are the blood vessels that carry blood from the lungs to the heart. During the procedure, a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin and guided to the heart. The catheter is then advanced into the pulmonary veins, and a cooling agent is used to freeze the tissue surrounding the veins. This process, known as pulmonary vein isolation, interrupts the abnormal electrical signals that are causing the arrhythmia. 

Life after cryoablation for arrhythmia

Many people experience significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life after cryoablation. 

In the immediate period after the procedure, patient may be monitored in the hospital for a short time to make sure that the heart rhythm has stabilized and that there are no complications. Most people can return to normal activities within a few days to a week after the procedure, although the doctor may recommend that patient can avoid strenuous activity or heavy lifting for a short period of time. 

In the weeks and months following cryoablation, patient may continue to experience occasional palpitations or arrhythmias, but these are usually less severe than before the procedure. It is important to follow up with the doctor regularly to monitor the heart rhythm and make any necessary adjustments to the medication or treatment plan. 

Over time, many people can resume their normal activities and enjoy an improved quality of life after cryoablation. However, it is important to continue to monitor your heart health and make any necessary lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly, to reduce your risk of future heart problems.

Cryoablation's ability to target and destroy abnormal cells and tissues with precision, minimal invasiveness, and reduced risks makes it an increasingly valuable tool in modern medicine. As technology continues to advance, it is likely that cryoablation will find even more applications and contribute to improving patient outcomes across various medical fields. Always consult with a healthcare professional to determine if cryoablation is the right option for your specific medical condition.

(Dr Praveen Sreekumar is a Consultant with interventional Cardiology & Electrophysiology, Aster Medcity Kochi)

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