Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation
Arrhythmia is diagnosed when your heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly. Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia. During periods of AFib, the electrical impulses from the top chamber of your heart (atria) become erratic causing this abnormal beating or quivering. If this quivering continues, blood can pool in the atria and form blood clots leading to a stroke. If you’ve had AFib for a long time, you are more prone to other heart problems like heart failure. People who have AFib have nearly double the risk of death compared to someone with a normal heart rhythm.
Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation
AFib symptoms may include heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath, swollen feet or ankles and chest pain.Most AFib episodes are not life-threatening, even though you may feel strange; you are not having a heart attack. In some instances, AFib does not always show signs or symptoms and may be found from a routine physical or check-up. Along with your medical and family history, your doctor may order several tests including an ECG, echocardiogram, blood tests or X-rays for determining the cause of AFib. If you have been told you have atrial fibrillation, your primary care doctor will most likely refer you to a cardiologist or electrophysiologist who will identify the cause and the best possible AFib treatment. Treatment options depend on your condition and the underlying cause, and can range from medication to ablation therapy.
Ablation Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation
BayCare hospitals offer the latest advancements in AFib treatment by ablation, which modifies the area of the heart tissue that is causing the irregular heartbeat. Ablation corrects arrhythmia rather than just treating the symptoms. There are several different types of ablation procedures, and our cardiac specialists will work to determine which approach, or combination of treatments, may offer you the best outcome. Types of ablation procedures include:
- Minimally Invasive catheter cryoballoon ablation is a procedure performed by inserting a Cryoballoon catheter in the left atrium of the heart, and moving it to the opening of the pulmonary veins. Next contrast dye is injected to make sure the vein is closed off and the balloon is inflated with extremely cold, liquid refrigerant, damaging the heart tissue and forming a scar. The resultant scarred tissue is no longer able to spread the electrical current that caused the AFib.
- Catheter-based pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) blocks the irregular electrical impulses from the pulmonary veins that are causing AFib by use of catheters. An electrophysiologist inserts the catheters into the blood vessels of the atrium and locates the precise locations of the origination of these abnormal impulses. By using radiofrequency energy, they produce a scar (ablation) that stops the pathway of abnormal conduction and the AFib is corrected.
- Minimally-invasive surgical ablation approach is considered for patients where medical therapy is not effective in controlling AFib or medication therapy is not tolerated. It is also used if the patient cannot take anticoagulants and the blood clots are reoccurring leading to strokes and if catheter ablation fails or is not an option. During minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon views the outer surface of the heart using an endoscope and specialized instruments are used to isolate the pulmonary vein and create lines of conduction block.
Advanced Treatment Options
If you have been taking medication for an arrhythmia and are considering some of these alternative options, talk to your physician. The following BayCare hospitals offer various forms of ablation treatment:
If you experience chest pain or discomfort, shortness of breath, weak, dizzy or faint, CALL 911 immediately. If you have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia or AFib, talk to your doctor to make sure you are getting the most advanced treatment available. For a physician referral, call (855) 233-0888.
BayCare offers a variety of resources to help people throughout the Tampa Bay area learn about heart conditions, procedures and surgical options. You can register for one of our classes or events in Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, Dunedin, Lutz, Plant City, New Port Richey, Riverview, Winter Haven or a surrounding area in Hillsborough, Pasco, Polk or Pinellas counties.