Ablation Surgery: How to Prepare

There are several types of ablation surgery—cardiac, urethral, endometrial, venous, and more. How you prepare will depend a lot on the type of ablation you are having. Cardiac and brain ablations are the most involved, and will often require a lot of preparation—even a few days in the hospital.

Other ablation procedures, like venous ablation, may be performed in an outpatient center or procedure room in a medical office with very little preparation. In many cases, you can even go home the same day. Learn about how to prepare for several types of ablations below.

Cardiac ablation surgery about to begin
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Location

Where your ablation is done will depend largely on the type of ablation you need and what kind of anesthesia is used for the procedure. In most cases, the ablation surgery will last several hours—four to eight hours in the case of a cardiac ablation.

If general anesthesia is used, you will be taken to a recovery area and then discharged or sent to an inpatient room based on your recovery and any complications. Below are specific location considerations for a few types of ablation surgeries.

Cardiac Ablation

Cardiac ablations can be done either in a hospital or outpatient center, most often in an electrophysiology lab at one of those locations. With local anesthesia and no complications, you may be able to go home the same day. In some cases, you might receive general anesthesia and have to stay in the hospital for a night or two after your surgery. 

Brain Ablation

Brain ablations are typically done in a hospital and require a stay of several days. These are some of the most complex ablations due to the delicate nature of the brain.

Ablations for neurologic conditions may also impact the spine or spinal cord. These types of ablations are often done in special procedure areas within the hospital because they use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for guidance.

Endometrial, Bladder, Urethral, Venous Ablation

Endometrial, bladder, urethral, and venous ablations are similar to cardiac ablation in that where you have the procedure done and how long you stay will depend largely on the extent of the procedure and the type of anesthesia used. If you require general anesthesia or have complications during your surgery, you may have to stay in the hospital for an extra day or two.

In some cases, these procedures can be done with minimal or local anesthetic, and may even take place in your doctor’s office. This is particularly true for superficial or surface ablation procedures that are meant to fix minor imperfections or even out skin coloring.

What to Wear

For any type of ablation procedure, as with other surgeries, your doctor will want a sterile area to work with and will ask you to change into a hospital gown.

It doesn’t matter what you wear to the hospital or treatment center, but—especially if you are going home the same day—you may want to wear loose, comfortable clothing. You may experience some pain or tenderness after the surgery, so tight-fitting clothing may result in more discomfort.

You should avoid wearing any lotions, perfumes, nail polish, or jewelry. Your medical team will clean your skin, and possibly shave the surgical area, especially when the ablation catheter is inserted through the groin.

Food and Drink

As with most medical procedures, you will probably be advised to avoid eating or drinking anything starting at midnight on the night before your surgery. If you are having general anesthesia, this is particularly important to help prevent a complication called aspiration, where food or liquids can center your lungs.

Even with a procedure where only local anesthetics are planned, there is a risk of nausea, or the chance you will require advanced treatment with general anesthesia.

Medications

Your doctor will review your regular medications with you in the days before your surgery, and discuss which to stop. Sometimes, you may be asked to bring your prescription medications to the procedure location.

Non-essential medications may be stopped for a short time, and others (like diabetes medications) will be continued or adjusted based on the recommendations of your surgeon.

Medications that increase the risk of complications—like blood thinners—will be stopped altogether. For example, the blood thinner Coumadin (warfarin) must be stopped three days before surgery to prevent bleeding problems.

What to Bring

When you arrive at the hospital, outpatient center, or medical building, you will need to provide some basic information about yourself and your medical insurance. You should bring the following documents with you:

  • Driver’s license or other identification
  • Medical insurance card or payment information
  • Emergency contact information
  • A list of your medications and any allergies
  • Eyeglasses, dentures, or hearing aids, and a container to keep them in during the procedure

You should also have someone who can drive you home after the procedure, especially if you are going home that day.

Pre-Op Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor will recommend any changes you need to make before your procedure, and it will depend a lot on the condition that is being treated. Most recommendations for lifestyle changes before your surgery are to improve your chances of a successful, complication-free, and how well you heal afterward.

In some cases, you may want to optimize your health with exercise, but for certain conditions that are treated with ablation—especially cardiac issues—you may need to avoid some types of exercise. A healthy diet can help improve your general health and ability to heal. You should discuss any diet and exercise plans with your doctor.

As with any procedure, you may also be asked to avoid or stop smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking recreational drugs.

A Word From Verywell

An ablation is a procedure that fixes or reprograms damaged tissue in your body. The extent of the preparation you need to do will depend mostly o the type of ablation you are having done, and what condition you are trying to treat. Be sure to discuss any medications you take, other medical conditions, and plans for diet and exercise with your doctor well before your procedure.

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Article Sources
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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Catheter ablation. Updated April 29, 2019.

  2. University of Utah Health. What to expect before, during, & after cardiac ablation.

  3. Johns Hopkins Health. MRI-guided ablation for brain tumors.