SOUTH BEND, Ind.--- Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) causes the heart to contract in a very fast, irregular way.
It affects about three million Americans and can lead to heart failure or stroke.
Now there's a new treatment that literally freezes A-Fib away when medications don't work.
When it comes to spending time in her garden Carmen Winkler doesn't skip a beat.
But her love was threatened when her own heart began to flutter.
"It was so hard,” said Winkler
Her doctor diagnosed her with Atrial Fibrillation.
"Atrial Fibrillation is a fast irregular heart rhythm from the top chamber of the heart and it affects almost 15 percent of the population," said Dr. Jonathan Rosman, Cardiologist at Delray Medical Center.
When medication fails, Dr. Rosman says Radio Frequency Ablation is used.
This is a procedure where heat destroys the tissue causing the irregularity.
But the procedure can be risky said Dr. Rosman, “What can happen is you can actually burn a hole through the heart and it can go into the esophagus and that can be fatal."
Now a new option virtually eliminates that risk by freezing the tissue instead of heating it up.
"By freezing, we're no longer destroying the tissue. What we are doing is making it electrically inactive," said Dr. Rosman.
A small catheter injects a liquid coolant into the affected area, freezing the tissue and restoring the heart's rhythm.
Cryoablation has been found to be less likely to damage heart tissue than Radio Frequency Ablation.
Now Winkler is back to gardening just one month after her procedure.
TOPIC: FREEZING THE HEART TO HEAL THE HEART
REPORT: MB # 3762
BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can eventually lead to stroke, blood clots, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. Approximately 2.7 million Americans are suffering from AFib. A normal heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat, but in AFib the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat irregularly (or quiver) instead of beating normally to move blood into the ventricles. Around 15 to 20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia. When blood is allowed to slow down or pool, it increases the risk of clotting and also increases the risk of stroke. According to the 2009 "Out of Sync" survey, only 33 percent of AFib patients think it is a serious condition, even though it is called the most common "serious" heart rhythm abnormality in people over the age of 65. (Source: www.heart.org)
SYMPTOMS: Sometimes people with AFib do not have any symptoms and their condition is only detectable through a physical examination. However, others may experience: rapid and irregular heartbeat, dizziness, fluttering in the chest, weakness, shortness of breath and anxiety, faintness or confusion, sweating, chest pain or pressure, and fatigue when exercising. (Source: www.heart.org) Risk factors can include age, a family history, cardiovascular or lung disease, and chronic health conditions. Some lifestyle factors can increase the risk of AFib including stress, smoking, stimulant drugs like caffeine, and alcohol abuse. (Source: www.tristarcentennial.com)
NEW TECHNOLOGY: The most common procedure to treat AFib is called thermal ablation. Surgeons go into the heart and, using extreme heat, destroy the circuits that are causing the atrial fibrillation. The procedure though, can be risky. Although rare, there is a risk that the heat can burn a hole too deep into the heart, and it can go into the esophagus, which is located right behind the heart. This can be fatal if not recognized immediately. Instead of using heat, doctors are now using extreme cold to stop AFib. A balloon catheter goes into the heart, expands, and fills with a coolant. The extreme cold doesn't destroy the circuits like the heat does, but instead makes it electrically inactive. Patients generally have a 70 to 85 percent success rate following the procedure. (Dr. Jonathan Rosman)
FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Delray Medical Center