Medications, cardioversions, catheter ablations, surgical ablations… And still, your heart feels like it’s jumping out of your chest, you’re often short of breath, and your risk of having a stroke remains high. Due to the storm of chaotic electrical signals that cause atrial fibrillation, this complex heart condition can be difficult to treat.
That is why two pioneering heart specialists decided to combine their expertise and offer solutions to patients with the most difficult to treat AFib. At Ogden Regional Medical Center Hospital, a cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist are among only three specialists in Utah to perform innovative treatments for patients with long-standing, persistent AFib.
In what could be considered as a best-of-both-worlds approach, these AFib specialists combine a surgical ablation and a catheter ablation – during one hospital stay. This advanced, collaborative approach effectively restores the heart’s normal rhythm, often when other types of treatment have failed.
During the hybrid ablation procedure, the cardiac surgeon first performs a series of ablations on the outside of the heart through small incisions on each side of the patient’s chest. The ablations block the chaotic electrical signals, keeping them from disrupting the heart’s rhythm. The left atrial appendage is also removed to lower the patient’s stroke risk.
Three days later, the electrophysiologist utilizes heart mapping technology to identify more errant electrical signals on the inside of the heart and stops them with additional catheter ablations. This two-step process creates a scar that goes completely through the heart tissue, which more permanently blocks misfiring electrical signals.
While similar to hybrid ablation, the convergent ablation procedure differs in two ways: 1) The surgical cardiac ablation is performed via small incisions in the abdomen laparoscopically – eliminating the need to deflate the patient’s lung during the procedure. 2) Both ablations are completed during one anesthesia session in a single day, which significantly reduces the time patients are hospitalized.
While convergent ablation is a new option in Utah and other states, it has been conducted approximately 2,000 times worldwide. Success rates for this combined approach are better than for less invasive options.
Providing new options for hard-to-treat AFib
A key advantage to both procedures is the electrophysiologist’s ability to confirm that the errant signals have been successfully interrupted. Combined with the collaborative team approach, these procedures are significantly improving the lives of patients challenged with AFib that has not responded well to other treatments.
When it comes to long-standing, persistent AFib, heart specialists must weigh the invasiveness of the treatment against its efficacy and select the best option for each individual. Whether patients undergo a hybrid or convergent ablation, the majority of them stop taking blood thinners and enjoy life without AFib after undergoing these advanced procedures.
If you would like to make an appointment to see one of our AFib specialists about these treatment options, please call (855) 413-7829.