Atrial fibrillation, or Afib, is the
most common type of heart arrhythmia. Normally, cells in the right upper chamber of the heart, or right
atrium, send electrical signals
which cause the heart to pump blood. When in fibrillation, the atria fire rapidly and erratically resulting in an irregular heartbeat.
We can treat patients with
anti-arrhythmic medications. However, many people require more advanced treatment with a
catheter ablation procedure. During this procedure, we thread a catheter
through a vein in the leg up into the heart to cauterize and scar the abnormal tissue.
Essentially, we are isolating the abnormal pieces of heart tissue from the rest
of the heart.
In the upper left chamber, or left
atria, abnormal electrical activity
throws both upper chambers of the heart into a rapid, erratic rhythm causing
Afib. To get to the problem spots, we first thread the catheter through the leg into the right atria,
and then push a needle through the septum that divides the top two chambers of
the heart. The catheter then enters the
left atria. The ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that ablates
or burns the source of the erratic electrical signals that cause the problem,
thus typically ending their ability to cause Afib.
There are always issues related to
putting anything in the left side of the heart. It’s the side that pumps blood
to the rest of the body, including the brain, which means there is a risk of
To greatly reduce this risk, we use
blood thinners during the procedure as well as the latest technological
advances, in this case combining ultrasound with 3D computer mapping to minimize the chance of complications. This means
I see everything both live from an ultrasound catheter within the heart and
with a real-time, highly precise computer-generated
map of the left atrium. This technology
also dramatically reduces the radiation exposure to the patient needed during
the procedure to a fraction of that used at most other centers. We are
currently training other physicians from around the country in using this ultrasound
based technique during Afib ablation.
My colleague, Dr. Tony Magnano, and I at Diagnostic
Cardiology Associates (DCA) are among the most experienced atrial fibrillation specialists in the
region, highly practiced in using these advanced tools. We have been
using 3D ultrasound mapping since 2007
when I did the first case using this
technology in the United States. Last year, we performed more than 350
of these ablation procedures, and are on pace to do even more in 2012, making
us one of the highest volume centers in the Southeast. More than 75% of my practice focuses on this
procedure. Our experience is giving
numerous patients the opportunity to live active and healthy lives again.
Saumil Oza, MD, is a cardiac
electrophysiologist (EP) with Diagnostic Cardiology Associates (DCA), 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.