Alcohol septal ablation is a catheter-based, nonsurgical treatment for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a condition that causes a heart muscle, known as the septum, to enlarge or “hypertrophy.” As a result, your heart may work harder to pump blood. In some people, this condition can be life threatening if not treated.

Many patients get better with surgery. However, if you are not a candidate for surgery, our specialists at the Heart and Vascular Center offer a full spectrum of cardiac care, including alcohol septal ablation.

During an alcohol septal ablation procedure, your interventional cardiologist injects a small amount of pure alcohol directly into your heart muscle. This causes that part of the muscle to shrink, allowing blood to flow more freely.

What to Expect During Your Alcohol Septal Ablation Procedure

At Wake Forest Baptist, we perform alcohol septal ablation in a hybrid catheterization lab dedicated solely to heart and vascular procedures. The first of its kind in the Piedmont region, this unique setting combines sophisticated imaging technology with surgical suite capabilities.

For your procedure, you will be awake, however, we use medicine to numb the skin around your incision area so you won’t feel any pain. We insert a small needle into your vein and, using catheters (thin tubes), access the arteries near your heart.

Using a special dye, we make your arteries visible using imaging equipment such as an echocardiogram and pinpoint the blood vessel responsible for the enlarged tissue. We thread a catheter with a balloon tip through your arteries to this site. Next, we inflate the balloon to temporarily block the septal artery and make sure the alcohol remains in the correct area. Finally, we inject a small amount of pure alcohol and wait 5 to 10 minutes to prevent any leakage to other parts of your heart.

Once your procedure is complete we remove the catheter. You should expect to feel better immediately. However we’ll need to monitor your heart for the next few days using a temporary pacemaker. You may need to stay at the hospital during this time.