What is Afib
Atrial fibrillation, often referred to as Afib, is a cardiovascular disorder affecting as many as 3 million Americans. It is caused by a disturbance of the heart's naturally rhythmic electrical impulses. When atrial fibrillation occurs, the two small upper chambers of the heart - the atria - quiver instead of beating effectively. A person with atrial fibrillation may have discomfort, palpitations ("fluttering"), or feel lightheaded.
Because the blood is not pumped completely out of the upper chambers, the individual with this condition faces a greater risk of blood pooling and clotting within the heart. A stroke can result when a piece of the clot travels from the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain. It's estimated that about 15 percent of strokes occur in people who have atrial fibrillation. In some cases, atrial fibrillation can lead to heart failure.
Symptoms of Afib
Symptoms of Afib:
- Pulse that feels rapid, racing, pounding, fluttering, or too slow
- Pulse that feels regular or irregular
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations)
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness, light-headedness
Treating Afib with Baloon Cryoablation
When medication is not sufficient to control Afib, an irregular heart rhythm, a catheter ablation is performed to prevent the unwanted electrical currents from traveling from the pulmonary veins and spreading to the upper chambers of the heart. Eliminating these abnormal circuits stops them from spreading and causing the atrial fibrillation.
How the Arctic Front® Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter Works to Treat Afib or Atrial Fibrillation
One method for treating Afib, or atrial fibrillation, is cryoablation using the Arctic Front® Cryoballoon catheter. As its name indicates, the Arctic Front Cryoballoon delivers a refrigerant through an inflatable balloon to freeze tissue and disable unwanted electrical circuits that contribute to PAF.
Envision the small catheter shown here as being tiny enough to be guided through the femoral vein (located in the groin area) and up into the heart. In the catheter tip is a liquid coolant that when injected expands to a gas, causing the tip to cool to an extremely low temperature.
Once occlusion is confirmed, the physician introduces liquid refrigerant into the balloon. The refrigerant evaporates and removes heat from the heart tissue at the opening of the pulmonary vein where the balloon is in contact with it. As a result, the tissue is scarred and may no longer spread the electrical currents that cause atrial fibrillation.
Subcutaneous Implantable Defibrillator (S-ICD)
Those at risk for arrhythmia-related sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating, may benefit frombenefit from a breakthrough cardiovascular technology, the subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD). S-ICD delivers the same protection as the implantable defibrillators that have been in use for decades, but offers an important advantage: it sits just below the skin. This eliminates the need for thin, insulated wires known as electrodes or "leads" to be placed into the heart itself, which leaves the heart and blood vessels untouched.
Benefits of S-ICD
"The biggest benefit of S-ICD is that it eliminates problems associated with the intravenous leads," explains cardiologist Thomas Svinarich, MD, FACC. "Leads implanted in the heart and blood vessels are constantly moving. Electrode wires wear out and have to be replaced. Here, we have a subcutaneous lead — under the skin, on the chest — that isn't subject to those stresses. So we expect patient complications, in the long run, to be much reduced."
Candidates for the S-ICD system include:
- Younger patients
- Active patients
- Patients prone to infection
- Patients likely to have a long life span following implantation
St. Anthony Hospital is very excited to be one of the first hospitals in the region to offer the S-ICD.