Alcohol septal ablation is a minimally invasive procedure recommended for patients who are not ideal candidates for surgery, or for patients who -- after they understand the risks and benefits of both treatment options -- strongly prefer to avoid surgery if at all possible.
Alcohol septal ablation offers similar symptom relief as septal myectomy but is much less invasive. During the procedure, a very small amount of alcohol is injected directly into the protruding heart wall using your heart’s own arteries. This causes that small part of the muscle to die and eventually shrink, which allows blood to flow more freely out of the heart.
The procedure takes about one to two hours and is done using a thin, flexible catheter that is threaded through the blood vessel and to the heart, similar to how angioplasty is performed in patients who have blockages in their heart’s arteries. During alcohol septal ablation, the patient remains awake and may feel some discomfort when the alcohol is injected. If this is the case, pain medication or sedatives are given to help the patient relax.
One of the most common side effects of alcohol septal ablation is called a “complete heart block,” meaning the impulse from the upper atrial chambers of the heart is not transmitted to the lower ventricle chambers. If this occurs, a permanent pacemaker will be implanted. While the need for a pacemaker may also occur after septal myectomy, the risk of needing one is higher (roughly 5 to 10 percent) after alcohol septal ablation.
Physicians are required to have special training prior to performing the procedure (more than 20 procedures recommended). So, if you are considering alcohol septal ablation, work with your physician to find a qualified medical center and an experienced doctor to perform the procedure.