At least 2.5 million Americans suffer from atrial
fibrillation, or Afib. More than 5 million are expected to have it by 2050. Afib
causes an abnormal heart rhythm and is the leading cause of stroke in the
United States. In fact, Afib sufferers may
be up to five times more likely to have a stroke.
Some people have severe atrial
fibrillation symptoms, while others live for years without knowing they have
this potentially dangerous
condition. Because Afib is so prevalent, particularly in those 60 and older, it is important to make every
effort to prevent this condition. This includes living a healthy lifestyle,
maintaining normal body weight, as well as identifying and controlling
conditions that put patients at risk for Afib such as sleep apnea, high blood
pressure, thyroid disease, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure
and valvular heart diseases. Nevertheless, we see some patients who develop
atrial fibrillation despite leading a very healthy lifestyle.
Treatment options have grown
dramatically over the last decade for those diagnosed with Afib. For example,
we can frequently identify
exactly which pacemaker cells in the left atria (the upper left chamber of the
heart) are misfiring, so we can destroy those cells to restore normal heart
rhythms. Through a minimally invasive technique, we use an ablation catheter to
encircle the pulmonary vein. Once those abnormal cells are deactivated, the normal heartbeat is
To guide our way during this
procedure, we create highly accurate 3D maps of the heart based on ultrasound
images. Then we monitor where the catheters are and make sure blood clots
aren’t developing. We can identify potential problems early to make sure the
procedure is safe. Using ultrasound has an added advantage. We are far less
dependent on the traditional use of X-rays to see inside the heart, meaning
radiation exposure is dramatically reduced.
My colleague, Dr. Saumil Oza, and I are
constantly working to improve our procedures along with the patient's comfort and overall experience as they undergo
ablation procedures. For example, it is a common and acceptable practice to use
the neck in addition to both groins as an entry point for the catheters.
We use just one vein in a single groin
site for nearly all of our patients. This tremendously cuts the rate of
problems at the entry site and it makes for an easier and faster recovery for
Anthony Magnano, MD, is a cardiac
electrophysiologist (EP) with Diagnostic Cardiology Associates who practices at
St Vincent’s Medical Center in Jacksonville, FL.
Learn in full detail the definition and symptoms of atrial fibrillation from two of our expert cardiologists, Anthony Magnano, M.D. and Saumil Oza, M.D.
Learn about the details of the catheter ablation procedure to treat AFIB from our expert cardiologists.