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New Procedure for Irregular Heartbeats
By Amy Bentz
HEALTH MATTERS FEATURE MAY/JUNE 2011
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learn more. For more information about atrial fibrillation and treatment options including cryoablation, call Iowa Heart Center at (515) 633.3600 or visit IowaHeart.com.

 

 

 



 
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Jim Ridder first noticed his heart race and skip every so often about eight years ago. He never thought much about it until his irregular, rapid heartbeat—known as atrial fibrillation—worsened two years ago.

“I would get dizzy and it would be hard to work,” says Jim, 68, of Aplington. “It also lasted longer—three to four hours—and kept getting worse. It would last all day and into the night. I couldn’t lie on my left side because it would be uncomfortable.”

Atrial fibrillation affects millions of Americans and thousands in central Iowa. Jim was suffering from paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, a common form of atrial fibrillation in which irregular heartbeats in the upper chambers start and stop
suddenly on their own, usually for minutes or days at a time. Symptoms may include shortness of breath, light-headedness, chest pain, weakness, and breaking into a sweat.

Medications failed to regulate Jim’s heartbeat, so Mercy and Iowa Heart Center electrophysiologist Dr. Robert Hoyt, M.D., recommended a new procedure recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to freeze abnormal tissue in the heart to return it to normal rhythm.

The Arctic Front® Cardiac Cryoablation Catheter system is the first and only cryoballoon technology in the United States used to treat paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. The cryoballoon treatment involves a minimally invasive procedure that efficiently creates lesions around the patient’s pulmonary veins, which are the source of the erratic signals that cause the irregular heartbeat. Unlike traditional ablation treatments that use radiofrequency, or heat, to cauterize these faulty electrical circuits, the novel
balloon-based technology uses a catheter to freeze and remove cardiac tissue. This freezing technology allows the catheter
to adhere to the tissue during ablation, allowing for greater catheter stability.

“This new cryoablation technology is proven safe and
effective, and provides patients with the peace of mind that their heart may be restored to an appropriate rhythm and they can resume their normal, daily activities following the procedure,” says Dr. Hoyt, medical director of the Electrophysiology Lab at Mercy West Lakes. “It enables physicians to safely and
effectively isolate the pulmonary veins using a simpler and
gentler application that causes less pressure on the wall of the heart. Freezing also does not leave scar tissue and offers a wider zone of ablation than radiofrequency ablation.”

Jim had the cardiac cryoablation procedure on January 26 and quickly saw improvement. “I’ve hardly noticed it at all,” he says.
Ablation has been available using heat-based radiofrequency energy to cauterize abnormal tissue adjacent to the heart.
However, that method carries the risk of scar tissue formation, blood clotting, and damage to adjacent tissues, such as the lungs or esophagus, Dr. Hoyt says.

The new cryoballoon technique is safer and more effective, he explains. Findings from the trial in which Iowa Heart Center and Dr. Hoyt treated 16 patients showed that almost 70 percent of patients treated with the Arctic Front system achieved
treatment success at 12 months, compared to 7.3 percent of patients treated with drug therapy only. Additionally, patients treated with the cryoballoon technology displayed a significant reduction of symptoms, a decrease in the use of drug therapy, and substantial improvements in both physical and mental
quality-of-life factors.

“Many of them say it’s given them their life back,” Dr. Hoyt says. “Many people are missing work to go into the hospital or are afraid to take a trip or go skiing or hiking. They can’t do
anything because they don’t know when they’re going to go out of rhythm and into atrial fibrillation. They always keep in their mind where the nearest hospital is.”

Following surgery, they are free from those burdens, he adds. “It can be quite dramatic in terms of the improvement in quality of life,” he says.


  

 

 

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