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Cardiology & Cardiac Surgery

First in Northern Virginia to Offer New Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation
Spring/Summer 2012, page 9

A major benefit of the Convergent Maze Procedure is that it combines the best techniques of the cardiac surgeon and the electrophysiologist to treat the condition with less pain and risk, a 2-3 day hospital stay and shorter recovery time.

Atrial fibrillation, also known as Afib, is the most common and one of the most undertreated heart rhythm disorders in America. Approximately 3 million Americans are estimated to have the disease. Afib occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat very rapidly and irregularly. When this happens, blood doesn’t pump efficiently to the rest of the body. Symptoms include palpitations, chest discomfort or pain, fainting or lightheadedness, fatigue, and shortness of breath. If left untreated, patients are at an increased risk of developing heart failure and they are up to five times as likely to suffer a stroke.

Some standard treatment options for Afib include medications and catheter radiofrequency ablation. Radiofrequency ablation is recommended only for patients whose symptoms cannot be controlled effectively by medication. In this minimally-invasive procedure by an electrophysiologist, catheters and tiny instruments are used to disconnect the pulmonary vein circuits that are sending the heart mixed signals. Most patients go home the next day. The procedure is often curative and eliminates the need for future atrial fibrillation drug therapy.

Illustration Courtesy nContactTM

A new minimally invasive approach for open heart surgery to treat atrial fibrillation. The procedure is performed through a small incision.

For patients who have advanced Afib (severe Afib symptoms) and do not respond to medicine or other treatments, the maze heart surgery may be recommended. The maze heart surgery is an open heart procedure by a cardiac surgeon. Recovery is generally complete within six to eight weeks. Maze heart surgery is not for all Afib patients, but for those who are candidates, they often see a correction in Afib and a decrease in related symptoms. In addition to the postoperative follow-up with the cardiac surgeon, an electrophysiologist continues to follow the patient after surgery.

Today, a new minimally invasive treatment option known as the Convergent Maze Procedure helps restore normal heart rhythm by combining the best of cardiac surgery and electrophysiology. Virginia Hospital Center is the first hospital in northern Virginia to offer this revolutionary new procedure thanks to the medical expertise of John R. Garrett, MD, Chief of Cardiac, Vascular & Thoracic Surgery, and Haroon Rashid, MD, FACC, Director of Electrophysiology Services.

During the procedure, Dr. Garrett, and Dr. Rashid work as a team. Radiofrequency, or heat, is used to produce lesions (scar tissue) on the heart, which result in an ability to block abnormal electrical signals causing Afib. Instead of an open heart procedure, Dr. Garrett makes a small incision in the patient’s abdomen right below the diaphragm. Air is blown into the cavity, a scope and a camera are inserted, and the surgeon then uses the radiofrequency waves in the scope to create lesions on the outside surface of the heart.

Once Dr. Garrett is finished, Dr. Rashid threads catheters through the patient’s femoral vein in the groin to reach and treat the inside of the heart using radiofrequency or cryo ablation. Dr. Rashid is able to conduct tests to ensure that all abnormal electrical signals have been eliminated.

A major benefit of the Convergent Maze Procedure is that it combines the best techniques of the cardiac surgeon and the electrophysiologist to treat the condition with less pain and risk, a 2-3 day hospital stay and shorter recovery time.

Even more importantly, the Convergent Maze Procedure gives patients an opportunity to get back what Afib often takes away—the energy to do the everyday things that most people take for granted, like an evening walk or a trip to the grocery store.

Subscribe to HealthReach | HealthReach Archives | Spring 2012

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