M06 — February 2012 — Freezing Heart Muscle
Intro: Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm problem experienced by millions of people. It's when your heart races, causing dizziness, shortness of breath and fatigue. It also increases your risk of stroke. Doctors at Mayo Clinic are using a new treatment for a-fib. They're freezing heart muscle to stop the racing.
I'm riding the bicycle for about 30 minutes.
Before Rosalee had a new procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, there's no way she could spend time in the gym with her husband, Darvin.
My heart was beating real hard, and I got dizzy and was short of breath.
At first, episodes of this irregular heart rhythm happened every month or so. But then they struck almost every day.
It was like a freight train.
Thundering through her chest. Her symptoms continued to get worse.
An involuntary thing like breathing seemed like an extreme effort.
Seeking help, Rosalee went to Mayo Clinic where she met with Dr. Fred Kusumoto.
What you're looking at here is the X-ray, or the fluoroscopy, of Ms. Johns.
You see, atrial fibrillation is an erratic and often fast heart rhythm caused by a misfiring of electrical signals. For the past decade or so, doctors have used radiofrequency ablation to stop the chaotic heartbeats. It works by scarring tissue, which interrupts the misfiring electrical pathways. But it's not perfect. Sometimes the signals can start up again. Now, they have another procedure that, for many patients, may work better. It's called cryoablation — scaring the tissue with extreme cold.
Very cold. Minus 60 degrees.
During the procedure, Dr. Kusumoto runs a catheter from the groin to the area of the heart where the arrhythmia, or bad heart rhythm, originates. Once in place, he deploys a balloon that freezes the area. The resulting scarred tissue stops the pathway of the misfiring signals.
The analogy I use is sort of wild mustangs. If you imagine this atrial fibrillation as wild mustangs, we make a big corral that keeps the mustangs within the corral and doesn't allow them to come out.
A procedure that worked for Rosalee.
It has been a miracle, I'll tell you.
She went from not being able to enjoy normal activities to hitting the gym with her husband.
For Medical Edge, I'm Vivien Williams.
Dr. Kusumoto says cryoablation may not be right for all people with atrial fibrillation. But for people like Rosalee, the procedure works well.
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