by Scholten A
(Cryotherapy; Cryoablation)


Cardiac catheter cryoablation uses cold to destroy certain heart cells.

Reasons for Procedure

This procedure is done to disable heart cells that cause uneven heartbeats called arrhythmias. After the procedure, the heartbeats should be normal.

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to nearby structures
  • Abnormal heartbeats
  • Heart attack

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Smoking
  • Long term diseases such as heart disease, diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before the procedure
  • Fasting before the procedure, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the procedure
  • Tests that will need to be done before the procedure


The doctor will give local anesthesia. The area will be numbed. You may get other medicine to help you relax.

Description of Procedure

The doctor will insert a tube (catheter) into a blood vessel. The groin, upper thigh area, arm, or wrist can be used. The catheter is passed through a blood vessel to the heart. X-rays will help guide the catheter to the right place.

Pathway of Catheter Toward the Heart
PIB image for cryoblation
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

The doctor will locate the problem area. This will be done by setting off the arrhythmia with the catheter tip. When found, the area is cooled with the tip. The cold will temporarily stop the arrhythmia. The heart should then beat normally. If it is not the right area, the tip is removed. The tissue will not be damaged.

The tubes will be taken out and the area will be bandaged.

How Long Will It Take?

3 to 6 hours, but it could be longer

Will It Hurt?

You may feel some minor discomfort as the catheter is inserted. You may feel lightheaded or feel a fast heartbeat or chest pain during the freezing process.

Average Hospital Stay

Most people stay overnight. If there problems, the stay may be longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

The healthcare staff will watch your vital signs. They will also care for the insertion site.

At Home

Most can return to normal activities in a few days.

Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor if you are not feeling better or you have:

  • Fever or chills
  • Redness, swelling, pain, excess bleeding, or discharge from the insertion site
  • Numbness, tingling, or a white or blue color in your leg
  • Problems breathing
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the jaw, chest, neck, arms, or upper back
  • Lightheadedness or weakness

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Heart Association 

Heart Rhythm Society 


Canadian Cardiovascular Society 

Heart and Stroke Foundation 


Ablation for arrhythmias. American Heart Association website. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2021.

Andrade JG, Wells GA, et al. Cryoablation or drug therapy for initial treatment of atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2021;384(4):305-315.

Catheter ablation. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2021.

Catheter ablation. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Nicole Meregian, PA
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 08/27/2021