Published on June 30, 2009

SVHC Announces New Atrial Fibrillation Institute

June 30, 2009 – Jacksonville, FL – St. Vincent’s HealthCare announces a new Atrial Fibrillation Institute, the latest addition to its awarding winning and nationally recognized heart and vascular program.  The institute is a collaboration between cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and the hospital.  It is designed to offer patients access to the latest advances from physicians working together to create treatment options designed for each individual patient.

Atrial Fibrillation (AFIB) is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder or arrhythmia.  It forces the heart to quiver rapidly rather than beating in a normal, rhythmic pattern.  The disorder leads to a greater risk of stroke, heart failure and death. It is estimated that as many as 3 million Americans experience Atrial Fibrillation. More than 180,000 people are diagnosed with AFIB each year.

“Atrial Fibrillation affects so many people in our community,” says Christine Veal, RN, MSN, St. Vincent’s Director of Cardiovascular Services.  “In addition to being at a higher risk of stroke, AFIB patients are often living a quality of life that is less than what they want.  Thanks to advances in treatment, new opportunities for a cure are in place at our institute.  We are very excited about this chance to help patients.”

To assist Atrial Fibrillation patients in reaching institute clinical staff, St. Vincent’s has created a unique phone number -- (904) 308-AFIB.  AFIB patients who want to know how St. Vincent’s Atrial Fibrillation Institute can help them will speak first with nurses trained to use the institute’s clinical protocol, designed to connect patients directly to the type of physician who is the best fit for their particular type of AFIB.

“All of the physicians who are a part of this new institute will look at our patients individually, and we will offer them every single option there is out there,” says electrophysiologist Anthony Magnano, M.D.  “We will counsel them about what we think is their best option, help them make a decision and then partner with them to help them live their lives the way they want to.”

Physicians treating patients at St. Vincent’s Atrial Fibrillation Institute include Dr. Anthony Magnano, Electrophysiologist Saumil Oza, M.D., Cardiothoracic Surgeon Raymond Lee, M.D. and Cardiothoracic Surgeon Mark Mostovych, M.D.  Drs. Magnano and Oza are employing recent advances in catheter-based interventions for patients with Atrial Fibrillation. 

“The goal of catheter-based intervention is to electrically isolate the area of the heart that is responsible for Atrial Fibrillation,” Dr. Oza says.  “When you burn this tissue, it basically generates a conduction block that prevents any impulses from crossing the barrier that we make with a burn line.”

Drs. Lee and Mostovych are using new options in surgical ablation for AFIB patients.
“For patients whose condition makes them an ideal candidate for surgical ablation, our success rate in curing AFIB is 85 to 90 percent,” Dr. Mostovych says.  For both the surgical approach and catheter-based interventions, a primary goal is to end dependence on medications to control AFIB.

Gerald Burns and Lillian Butler-Humphries are both patients who spent years on medications for Atrial Fibrillation.  They found answers to their conditions through the physicians who treat AFIB at St. Vincent’s.  Both are approximately six months past procedures at the hospital and have experienced no Atrial Fibrillation since.

“For me, having Atrial Fibrillation meant feeling really tired all of the time,” says Lillian Butler-Humphries, a patient who had a catheter intervention procedure for AFIB at
St. Vincent’s.  “I was often short of breath, and my heart would race even when I was resting.  It was uncomfortable and scary.  I am really enjoying not having those feelings anymore.  I want to be able to live my life.”

“I feel good – real good,” Gerald Burns says, following his catheter intervention for AFIB at St. Vincent’s. The 61-year-old is an avid bicyclist who rides thousands of miles each year.   “I am back on my bike, I am back to work, and I feel great.” 

All patients who seek help through St. Vincent’s Atrial Fibrillation Institute will be directed for care based on an algorithm developed by the electrophysiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons.  Physicians will create custom treatment plans that include a range of options with the same goal – to re-direct electrical impulses that cause Atrial Fibrillation so that the heart beats in a normal rhythm. 

“It’s amazing to think that – just a few years ago – physicians looked at Atrial Fibrillation as something difficult to control and impossible to cure,” says Dr. Lee.  “While we cannot guarantee a cure for all AFIB patients, for many of them – there is truly a good chance for a cure now.  We have come so far, and this is a very exciting time in the treatment of this common and dangerous heart rhythm condition."

Contact: 904-308-7962

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