Why Am I So Tired After My Cardiac Ablation?

Medically reviewed by Jeffrey S. Lander, MD

Fatigue after a cardiac ablation (also called catheter or radiofrequency ablation) is normal and can be expected for two days up to two weeks. Cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive procedure to treat an irregular heartbeat (e.g., atrial fibrillation) that doesn't respond to medication. Still, cardiac ablation causes trauma to the heart and requires sedative medications to minimize discomfort.

This article discusses why you may feel fatigued after cardiac ablation, the importance of rest during the healing process, and how long to expect fatigue.

<p>Justin Paget / Getty Images</p>

Justin Paget / Getty Images

Related: Purpose of Ablation Surgery

How Long Does It Take to Heal After a Cardiac Ablation?

Generally, recovery after a cardiac ablation is quick. You can expect to be tired for two to three days. Often, you can resume regular activity within a day or two of the procedure, though you might be advised not to drive for a few days or lift anything heavy for a couple of weeks. Your healthcare provider will provide you with specific aftercare instructions.

Fatigue is expected during the recovery process. Medications to make you sleepy during the procedure contribute to fatigue. Most providers will advise you to avoid driving for at least two days after the procedure.

Cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive procedure, but it does create trauma to the heart, which also contributes to fatigue. It is essential to take things slowly following a cardiac ablation to allow the body time to heal and the fatigue to pass.

What Causes Fatigue After Cardiac Ablation?

Cardiac ablation can cause you to feel fatigued due to the following factors:

  • Anesthesia: An anesthesia provider, such as an anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist, will administer medication to make you sleepy during the procedure. These medications can stay in your body for many hours, even days, and can cause you to feel more tired than usual.

  • Heart trauma: A cardiac ablation stops any cells generating an abnormal electrical impulse. This does affect the heart overall as it needs to create new, effective electrical pathways, which requires healing time.

Related: Coping With Fatigue After Surgery

Why Should You Rest After a Cardiac Ablation?

Even though a cardiac ablation is considered a minimally invasive procedure, it still results in postoperative fatigue. It is important to follow your healthcare provider's post-procedure instructions. In addition, getting adequate rest will support the healing and recovery process.

Following a cardiac ablation, many people will experience varying levels of fatigue. It is essential to:

  • Allow yourself time to rest.

  • Slowly increase activity while following your healthcare provider's instructions and guidance.

  • Everyone recovers at different speeds, so avoid comparing your recovery pace to someone else.

Related: Types of Heart Ablation and Results

How Long You Might Feel Tired

Feeling fatigued after a cardiac ablation is considered normal. However, the procedure can help improve any fatigue you experienced before the procedure.

One study indicated that people who received a radiofrequency (cardiac) ablation tended to fatigue more before the procedure, which improved afterward. Another recent study revealed abnormal heart rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation, cause more fatigue than catheter ablation.

Generally, most fatigue and tiredness after a cardiac ablation resolves within a week. A young, physically active person might feel fatigue dissipate within a few days after the cardiac ablation. Conversely, a less active person or someone with certain medical conditions may experience slower recovery and healing.

Everyone recovers from the cardiac ablation procedure at different speeds. Contact your healthcare provider for guidance if your fatigue is not resolving or worsening.

Related: What to Know About Ablation Therapy

When to Contact a Healthcare Provider

Recovering from fatigue after a cardiac ablation will vary from person to person. There are some essential warning signs for when you should notify your healthcare provider, such as:

  • If the sheath insertion site starts to bleed or swell

  • If the sheath insertion site has signs of infection, like foul-smelling or pus-like drainage

  • If the leg with the sheath insertion site becomes numb or tingling, or your leg or foot becomes cold or turns blue

  • If you feel short of breath, dizzy, or light-headed

If you experience any of the following high-risk signs or symptoms after cardiac ablation, call 911 for an emergency medical response:

  • The sheath insertion site swells rapidly.

  • The sheath insertion site starts to bleed, and the bleeding won't stop with direct pressure.

  • You have chest discomfort, upper back pain, or pain in the neck, upper arms or jaw.

  • You experience facial drooping, arm or one-sided body weakness, or difficulty speaking.

Summary

Fatigue after cardiac ablation is typically a result of sedative medications or a physiological part of the healing process. It usually lasts for a couple of days to a couple of weeks. If your fatigue lasts longer or worsens, or you cannot return to normal activities within a few weeks, follow up with your healthcare provider to ensure your healing process is on track.

Read the original article on Verywell Health.