Memorial Hospital of South Bend First in State to Utilize CryoAblation Technology to Treat Common Form of Atrial Fibrillation
Memorial Advanced Cardiovascular Institute is the first in the state of Indiana to use the Arctic Front® CryoAblation Catheter system to treat drug refractory recurrent symptomatic paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF), a serious heart rhythm disorder that affects millions of Americans. Dr. Sean Halleran, MD, FAAC and the Medical Director of MACI, Dr.Raman Mitra, MD, PhD, are the only two physicians in the state trained to use the technology. The treatment, which was approved by the FDA in December 2010, requires the advanced lab and capabilities that are regionally unique to Memorial.
Atrial fibrillation is the most common and one of the most undertreated heart rhythm disorders in America. It is the result of misdirected electrical signals to the heart that make the heart quiver or pump irregularly. This reduces the heart’s efficiency in pumping blood and can lead to clots and, should the clots travel to the brain, strokes. Approximately 3 million Americans are estimated to have the disease, but about 40 percent don’t exhibit symptoms and may be under-diagnosed.
“We know from a number of studies that the people with the highest success rates have an earlier stage of the disease. The paradox has been that usually patients aren’t referred for invasive therapies for PAF until they reach a severe stage,” explained Dr.Halleran. “Unfortunately, this translates to lower success rates in those patients. Our hope is that if we have safer and more effective treatment for PAF at a safer and earlier stage, more individuals would benefit from the procedure.”
Patients are eligible for CryoAblation treatment if their PAF is not responding to drug therapy. Also, CryoAblation is specifically for use in the veins feeding the upper left chamber from the chamber itself.
Since each heart is unique, each case of PAF is also individual. “Two people can have an EKG that shows PAF; however, the causes and problem areas can be different,” explained Dr.Mitra. “When we have a condition that has multiple causes, we need a variety of tools to tackle it.” CryoAblation is a good option for many patients, but there are only a handful of physicians nationwide trained to utilize it.
Traditional ablation techniques use heat or radiofrequencies to eliminate faulty electrical circuits in the heart. There can be hundreds of such faulty circuits, and each one must be eliminated with an individual burn. Dr.Mitra compared the process to spot-welding a cylinder of metal.
CryoAblation, on the other hand, involves inserting an inflatable balloon catheter into the heart and using a cooling gas to freeze the area. The process results in a more even, monitored lesion of the area all at once. The doctors are also capable of stopping the freeze midway if necessary. You can see an animation of the process on the Arctic Front website.
Dr.Halleran and Dr. Mitra have high hopes for its future impact. As electrophysiologists (cardiologists who treat the electrical activities of the heart), they treat numerous cases of PAF each year and, as Dr.Mitra explained, this treatment “could offer eligible patients greater long-term freedom from PAF.” Based on the availability of the treatment at Memorial, the future is looking bright for PAF sufferers in the region.
Jennifer Warfel Juszkiewicz