In response to the increasing number of patients seeking treatment for atrial fibrillation (AFib), MU Health Care is investing in its treatment of the disease.
MU Health Care’s Heart and Vascular Center will streamline the process from diagnosis to treatment to follow-up visits for patients with any heart rhythm disorder. A nurse coordinator will work with patients’ primary care doctors or cardiologists to coordinate tests, answer questions and schedule appointments.
For AFib patients who have not had success managing the condition with medications, MU Health Care’s electrophysiologists have access to the most advanced technology that makes ablation procedures safe.
Ablation is not open-heart surgery. During an ablation procedure, a uniquely designed catheter with a radiofrequency tip is inserted into a blood vessel — usually in the groin — and guided to the upper chambers of the heart. The tip of the catheter is then gently placed against the heart, and the heat from the radiofrequency generated at the tip of the catheter scars the heart tissue area that is sending abnormal electrical signals. Once the abnormal electrical signals are blocked, the heart returns to a normal rhythm. Patients usually stay overnight and are discharged the next day.
Now, with the help of 3-D heart mapping, the catheter can be guided to the heart using little or no fluoroscopy, which limits or eliminates a patient’s exposure to radiation.
MU Health Care electrophysiologists will soon have the option of performing cryotherapy ablations, in which the malfunctioning heart tissue is frozen rather than heated. Another treatment option soon to be available is a procedure designed for AFib patients who cannot tolerate blood-thinning medication. Many advanced treatment options beyond medications exist for patients, and the MU Health Care electrophysiologists work with each patient to identify the best treatment plan for their type of AFib.
“Between 60 to 70 percent of the people who have an ablation are able to get off the anti-arrhythmic and anti-coagulant medication,” said MU Health Care cardiologist Sandeep Gautam, MD. “But we stress to patients when they come in for a consultation that we cannot promise that they will be able to stop the anti-coagulants. We do not want them to go through an ablation procedure solely to get off the anti-coagulants.”
Cardiologists nationwide are seeing more patients with AFib, which is an irregular heartbeat originating in the upper chambers of the heart. If left untreated, the condition can cause blood to pool and coagulate in the heart and lead to strokes.
“Advanced age is one of the factors that can lead to AFib, but you can get AFib at any age,” said MU Health Care cardiologist Hemant Godara, MD. “Just like prostate cancer in men, if you live long enough, you will probably have it. The reason is the fibrosis that goes on in the heart due to wear and tear through a natural aging process. It’s nothing you did or didn’t do. Fibrosis slowly accumulates, but it accumulates faster if you have other problems like hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, leaky valves and coronary artery disease.”
AFib patients interested in making an appointment with a cardiologist specializing in the heart’s electrical system should call 573-88-HEART.