Ablation Surgery: Recovery

Your recovery, including how soon you can leave the hospital and return to work and the type of post-surgery care you need, may look different depending on which type of ablation surgery you had. In general, recovery from ablation surgeries is pretty quick and mainly involves pain and bleeding control. The road to recovering from an ablation surgery is usually fairly straightforward—avoid strenuous activities and heavy lifting while you are recovering from your surgery.

doctor and patient


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Surgery Follow-Up

After your ablation surgery, your doctor may choose to keep you in the hospital for a short time for observation. This happens most often with cardiac ablations or ablations done to the brain or spine.

With cardiac ablations, your doctor will usually have you placed on a cardiac monitor overnight for observation. You will be watched for complications like:

  • Bleeding or damage to the blood vessels where the ablation tools were inserted
  • Bleeding or damage in the heart
  • New or continuing arrhythmias
  • Irritation or infection around the heart
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Damage to structures around the areas affected by the ablation (nerves, veins, other organs)

For other types of ablation, including endometrial, bladder, and endovenous ablations, you can usually go home after the effects of anesthetics wear off. This can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Follow-Up Appointments

Your doctor would usually schedule a follow-up appointment for you regardless of what type of ablation surgery you had. You will receive instructions on when to call your doctor and any special instructions to follow between your discharge and your follow-up appointment.

You may also have physical therapy appointments for more serious ablation procedures like cardiac or brain ablations. Endometrial and bladder ablations, or more superficial ablations for issues like varicose veins, require much less follow-up care and rarely need physical therapy.

The more vital the organ involved in the ablation surgery, the more follow-up care and physical therapy you will need.

Pain and Bleeding

In almost every type of ablation, you will need to watch for bleeding at the ablation site or from the area where the ablation was done. Your doctor may also send you home with medications for post-surgery pain. You would normally experience pain at the site where ablation tools were inserted during the surgery:

  • For cardiac ablation, the site is usually the groin, but can also be the neck
  • With bladder or urethral ablations, a cytoscope is inserted through the urethra and you may experience some soreness
  • During a brain ablation, a small hole is drilled into the skull for the ablation tools

For endometrial and endovenous ablation surgeries, which are less invasive than the surgeries listed above, you will still experience some pain and discomfort. Those who underwent endometrial ablation may have cramps or vaginal bleeding for several days after the procedure. They may also have watery vaginal discharge mixed with blood that should go away after a few days.

For those who had endovenous ablation, they may experience tenderness and bruising in the areas of the leg where local anesthesia was applied. Leg or ankle swelling, discoloration, and a pulling or tight sensation in the leg are also common with this type of ablation.

If you did not receive any prescription pain medications when you were discharged, the following tips may help with soreness and discomfort while you are recovering at home:

  • Apply ice packs or a cold compress to the tender area
  • Use over-the-counter-pain relievers like acetaminophen
  • Ask your doctor about taking ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) since these may increase the risk of postoperative bleeding
  • Have throat lozenges or hot tea for relief if a breathing tube was used during anesthesia
  • Wear support garments like compression socks for comfort and to help with healing—especially for endovenous ablations. Elevate the treated leg when in a rested position.

Recovery Timeline

After your ablation surgery, you can generally return to life as usual—with some light restrictions. Mostly, you will want to avoid strenuous activities, at least for a short period of time.

You may be advised to:

  • Avoid driving for two days after your surgery
  • Avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds for one week
  • Avoid exercise for one week
  • Refrain from sexual activity for one week, particularly with an endometrial ablation

In the first few days after your surgery, you may remain in the hospital if you had a brain or cardiac ablation surgery. For others like urethral or venous ablations, you will likely be sent home the same day the procedure is done. The first few days after you go home should be spent resting and limiting activity. Specifically, you should avoid lifting heavy objects or straining since this could herniate or tear the area where your ablation was done.

In the weeks after your ablation, you will return to life as normal. Even with a cardiac ablation—one of the more involved ablation procedures—you should be able to go back to work within a few days.

You may still experience effects from your ablation a few weeks after your procedure, including a change in heart rhythm with a cardiac ablation or ongoing bleeding after endometrial ablation. In the case of cardiac ablation, these effects can be managed with the help of your doctor.

In many cases, knowing whether an ablation worked takes time. For example, with cardiac and venous ablations, you will want to to see if the condition persists or recurs.

When to See a Doctor

Certain signs during your recovery may indicate that you need immediate medical assistance. They will also be different depending on which type of ablation surgery you had.

For cardiac ablation:

  • Increased bleeding
  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Swelling or numbness near your insertion site
  • A bruise or lump the size of a walnut near your insertion site
  • Fever
  • Symptoms of arrhythmia
  • Confusion
  • Stroke Symptoms

For brain ablation:

  • Signs of infection like a fever

For bladder ablation:

  • Inability to keep fluids down
  • Red urine or blood clots in your urine
  • Trouble passing urine or stool
  • Signs of a blood clot such as redness and swelling near the groin

For endometrial ablations:

  • Persisting pain even after taking pain medications
  • Inability to pass stool or gas
  • Increased vaginal discharge
  • Signs of an infection like a fever

For endovenous ablations:

  • Persisting pain even after taking pain medications
  • Bleeding at the site where the catheter was inserted
  • Numbness in your calf, foot, or leg

Coping with Recovery

As you recover, you may need help with some tasks, especially those that require lifting heavy objects. You will also need someone to drive you home from the hospital and anywhere else you need to go for a few days.

In many cases, you will see you condition improve after your ablation surgery. Other times, you may experience complications or new problems. Make sure you have a support system in place, and discuss what to expect with your doctor before your ablation.

When your ablation is done, your condition will usually be resolved. In the case of cardiac ablations, irregular rhythms may return if you have chronic health problems. How well your condition you received an ablation for is cured depends a lot on what caused your condition in the first place.

Talk to you doctor about how you are handling your disease mentally and emotionally. Consider joining a support group for people with your condition or counseling with a professional who can help you cope with your condition.

Wound Care

The incisions made for your ablation catheter are small and don’t require stitches in most cases. The incisions will be closed with adhesive strips or glue. Your doctor may suggest that you avoid baths or swimming until the incisions have healed well.

You will be instructed to call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Redness at the incision site
  • Swelling at the incision site
  • Drainage or bleeding from the incision site
  • Increased pain
  • Fever

You usually don’t have to leave the post-op dressing on once you go home, but you may wish to cover the incision with a dry bandage if you have any drainage or want to protect the site.

If you have a sizable incision or go home with a dressing on your ablation site, here are some tips for wound care once you go home:

  • Always wash your hands before touching your incision or the area around it
  • Leave adhesive dressings on the incision like Steri-Strips in place. These will fall off on their own within two weeks. If they are still on after two weeks, you may gently remove them
  • If your incision was closed with dissolving stitches, these will disappear on their own. If you had sutures or staples, your doctor will give you instructions on when these can be removed
  • Don't pull, tug, or rub at any incision closures.You can usually shower within 24 hours, but cleanse these areas gently with water and mild soapy water. Do not rub
  • Do not use solutions like alcohol or peroxide to clean the wound since they can dry your wound out and extend the healing process
  • Look for increased bleeding, redness, or discharge from the wound site, and call your doctor with any questions
  • Don't use ointments or creams on your incision unless you are instructed to do so by your doctor
  • If you want to apply a new dressing to your incision to protect it or to collect drainage, use a dry piece of clean gauze and tape it to the site. Do not apply tape to the incision itself

A Word From Verywell

Ablations are generally simple procedures with a short hospital stay and recovery process. The key to recovering well from ablation surgeries is to take a few days to rest up before resuming normal daily activities. Don't push yourself after the procedure, and enlist your friends and family to help you get around or with chores while you are recovering.

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Article Sources
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  2. Mayo Clinic. Transurethral Needle Ablations. Published Aug. 1, 2019.

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  5. Penn Medicine. Ablation Recovery: What You Should Know.

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  7. Cleveland Clinic. Incision Care: Procedure Details. Published April 14, 2015.