Emily Lau, MD, is a member of the class of 2021 in the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Lau shares what drew her to Mass General, the culture of the program and her experience as a trainee during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Explore This Procedure
Care During COVID-19
Our dedicated physicians, nurses and staff are committed to providing the best possible care. We have taken unprecedented steps to ensure office visits, procedures and surgeries are welcoming and safe. Your health and safety is our top priority.
About This Procedure
Doctors perform cryoablation to restore normal heart rhythm by disabling heart cells that create an irregular heartbeat. During this minimally invasive procedure, a thin flexible tube called a balloon catheter is used to locate and freeze the heart tissue that triggers an irregular heartbeat.
We have found that using cold, rather than heat, to disable damaged tissue reduces the chances of impacting healthy heart tissue and surrounding structures. Recent studies have found cryoablation to be significantly more effective than medication, and patients generally experience less pain than with radiofrequency ablation.Learn more about how our physicians treat atrial fibrillation >
What Happens During Cryoablation?
A doctor inserts the balloon catheter into a blood vessel, usually in the upper leg, and then threads it though the body until it reaches the heart. This narrow tube has an inflatable balloon on one end that engages the pulmonary vein. Using advanced imaging techniques, the doctor is able to guide the catheter to the heart.
Once the balloon is at the ostium of the pulmonary vein, extreme cold energy flows through the catheter to destroy this small amount of tissue and restore a healthy heart rhythm.
What Is the Difference Between Heat-Based Ablation and Cryoablation?
Most patients are treated with heat-based ablation using radiofrequency (RF) catheters, but this procedure has some risk of complications, such as esophageal injury. Cryoablation helps physicians avoid these risks by using cold instead of heat to disable abnormal heart tissue. Unlike heat-based ablation, cryoablation allows physicians to cool tissue to make sure it is the area causing an irregularity. If it is not, the site’s normal electrical function can be restored simply by allowing the tissue to thaw and re-warm.
How Safe and Successful Is Cryoablation for Atrial Fibrillation?
The success rate of the procedure is generally very good, and depends on many factors, such as the duration of the condition, the presence of valve disease or coronary artery disease, the type of atrial fibrillation (paroxysmal or persistent) and the size of the atria.
However, like any other medical procedure, rare complications can occur. These complications include perforation of the heart, stroke, heart attack, narrowing of the pulmonary veins and bleeding at the entry site in the leg. Your physician will discuss all of these topics with you during your pre-procedure office visit.
- Press Release
- Aug | 25 | 2020
Massachusetts General Hospital first in New England to perform new procedures for tricuspid valve disease
Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) is announcing two first-of-their-kind procedures in New England today, to treat one of the most common forms of heart valve disease.
- Press Release
- Aug | 19 | 2020
Clinical and sociodemographic features of early COVID-19 patients in Massachusetts: MGH study suggests vulnerable populations are hardest hit
Data from the first COVID-19 patients treated at three large Massachusetts hospitals reveal important trends, including disproportionate representation of vulnerable populations, high rates of disease-related complications, and the need for post-discharge, post-acute care and monitoring.
- Jun | 23 | 2020
As the initial surge of the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, Massachusetts General Hospital leaders are discussing the transition to strategies for recovery and wellness.
- Press Release
- Jun | 2 | 2020
A team led by investigators at Mass General and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard recently found that applying “polygenic risk scores” can identify at-risk patients who are not presently identified through standard clinical evaluations.
- Patient Education
- May | 27 | 2020
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mass General Corrigan Minehan Heart Center is providing general and surgical care for our patients. We have taken unprecedented steps to ensure all office visits, procedures and surgeries are welcoming and safe. We have also expanded our virtual visit offerings.