Why Choose Penn Medicine

For patients living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM), medicines often provide relief. When medicines aren't effective, septal myectomy is the gold standard for treating HCM. However, some people may not be candidates for this open-heart surgery.

Penn's heart specialists are some of the most experienced in the region performing alcohol septal ablation for HCM when surgery isn't an option. When you choose Penn, you'll find:

  • Highly regarded program: U.S. News & World Report rates our Heart Failure Program as high performing. They note that we treat a very high number of patients each year, and our patients have excellent survival. Our specialized nursing team ensures that patients have better outcomes and experiences.
  • Team approach: Our surgeons and cardiologists work collaboratively to ensure you receive leading-edge treatments, delivered with the skill you'd expect from Penn. Meet the treatment team.
  • Clinical trials: Investigators at Penn Cardiovascular Institute advance the field by conducting heart failure research that results in new treatments.

Alcohol Septal Ablation Treatment Overview

The two lower heart chambers are called ventricles. The left and right ventricle are separated by a muscular wall called the septum. Patients with HCM have an abnormally thick septum that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood out to the body. This partially blocked blood flow places extra pressure on the heart, leading to fatigue and shortness of breath. Without care, HCM can lead to heart failure.

Septal Ablation Procedure Details

Your heart specialist typically performs septal ablation in a cardiac catheterization laboratory. Your doctor will use light sedation to ensure you are comfortable during the minimally invasive procedure. Next, they:

  • Make a small incision in your groin and place a flexible tube (catheter) into a blood vessel.
  • Use X-ray guidance to feed the catheter to the artery that supplies blood to the septum.
  • Inject alcohol into the catheter. The alcohol travels through the bloodstream to the thickened septum. It causes the tissue to die and shrink immediately.
  • Insert a temporary pacemaker. Up to 10 percent of patients experience a slowed heart rate (bradycardia, a type of arrhythmia) after septal ablation. The pacemaker remains in place for a few days.
  • Remove the catheter and close the incision.
  • Monitor your recovery in a post-anesthesia care unit. You may need to spend up to 48 hours in the hospital for monitoring.

Typically, patients experience rapid symptom relief after alcohol septal ablation. Your specialist will tell you when you can resume activity. They will conduct follow-up echocardiograms after the procedure to measure whether the procedure was effective.

Cardiac Rehabilitation After Alcohol Ablation

After alcohol ablation, your specialist may recommend cardiac rehabilitation to speed your recovery and strengthen your heart. Penn's cardiac rehab specialists provide gentle exercises, education and nutrition support in an outpatient setting. Learn more about cardiac rehab.

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