A Publication of WTVP

Innovative cardiovascular technology offers atrial fibrillation patients relief with fewer side effects.

Technological advances in healthcare continue to change the way hospitals and physicians care for patients. Cardiovascular technology, in particular, is saving lives and improving the quality of life for those with heart disease. In fact, in the past 30 years, treatment advances have cut the rate of cardiovascular deaths in half.

At Methodist Medical Center, two new procedures are now available for patients with a common irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation.

Over two million Americans live with this condition, in which a problem in the electrical impulses in the upper chamber of the heart results in a rapid, irregular heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation commonly causes palpitations and fatigue and significantly increases the risk of stroke. Until recently, it was treated with lifestyle changes and medications. But some patients cannot, or do not wish to, take lifelong medicines due to the side effects.

Dr. Adel Mina, an electrophysiologist with Methodist Medical Group Cardiovascular Services, is the first doctor in Peoria to perform an atrial fibrillation ablation procedure that can offer patients long-term relief from sometimes debilitating symptoms. Dr. Mina explains that cardiac ablation is a relatively non-invasive procedure that involves inserting catheters into a blood vessel that is carefully guided to the heart. He says, “Electrodes at the end of the catheter gather data that help to pinpoint the location of the faulty electrical activity. Once the damaged site is confirmed, energy is used to destroy a small amount of tissue, ending the disturbance of electrical flow and restoring a healthy heart rhythm.” The procedure is complex, but relatively safe, and may take four to eight hours.

Methodist first started an A-Fib ablation program three years ago with good outcomes and low complication rates. Patients having this procedure reported significant improvements in symptoms, quality of life, and social and psychological state, as well as improved exercise capacity.

While cardiac ablation is an option for correcting atrial fibrillation, Dr. Joel Kupfer of Methodist Cardiovascular Services offers an innovative, non-surgical procedure aimed at significantly reducing the threat of a stroke for patients unable to tolerate blood thinners used in the treatment of their disorder. Commonly called the Lariat procedure, it is only available in about 30 other healthcare facilities in the nation.

Dr. Kupfer explains that the abnormal rhythm of atrial fibrillation can allow blood to pool in a small appendage to the upper left chamber of the heart. That, in turn, can lead to blood clots that can cause a stroke. The Lariat device, a tiny lasso-like loop, is inserted through a catheter and directed to the heart. Doctors then tie off the appendage to prevent blood from pooling there. The appendage itself is an embryonic remnant, sort of like the appendix. Dr. Kupfer says, “It’s not necessary for heart function and can be tied off using the Lariat-type loop.” Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure, depending on the shape of the appendage. But, as Dr. Kupfer stresses, more options are always better. iBi