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Latest catheter ablation treatment for atrial fibrillation

Posted Mar 24 2014 9:02am

Atrial fibrillationAbnormally fast and uneven contractions of the heart muscle, so that blood cannot be pumped efficiently (AFAn abbreviation for atrial fibrillation) is the most common heart rhythm disorder in the world. It is estimated that 1 million people in the UK have this condition and it is the leading cause of strokeAny sudden neurological problem caused by a bleed or a clot in a blood vessel. in the country. In some patients it may also cause heart failureFailure of the heart to pump adequately..

AF results from abnormal electrical impulses occurring in the top chambers of the heart, the atriaThe two upper chambers of the heart., which can lead to rapid and uncontrolled beating. This causes irregular palpitationsThe feeling when you become aware of your heartbeat - when frightened, for example., breathlessness, chest pain light-headedness and tiredness. AF increases with age and is very frequently associated with having high blood pressureThe pressure of blood within the arteries. but it can occur in patients with no other medical problems.

Treatment for AF will be necessary if no underlying medical problem can be found. There are medications that can control AF by restoring a normal heart rhythm and easing symptoms, however these do not always work terribly well and often cause unpleasant side-effects.

In recent times a newer method has been used to restore the heart rhythm called catheterA tube used either to drain fluid from the body or to introduce fluid into the body. ablation. In this procedure a catheter (a long thin wire) is passed into the chambers of the heart via a large bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. vessel in a leg. The tip of the catheter is then useddeliver radiofrequency energythat destroys tiny sections of heart tissueA group of cells with a similar structure and a specialised function. that are the source of the abnormal electrical impulses. However, the heart often repairs the damage and this limits the success of this technique to about 50 per cent of patients meaning that repeat procedures are often required.

In the last few years a new ablation technique known as “laser balloon ablation” has been pioneered thatallows greater accuracy during surgery and improved success rates.The new laser balloon procedure involves inserting catheters via the top of the leg and the end of the catheter has a balloon that is inflated and put into the pulmonary veinA blood vessel that carries blood towards the heart..  The balloon has a camera incorporated in the centre.  The balloon creates a ‘blood free zone’ and the camera allows doctors to see inside thebeatingheart making it possible for specific areas to be targeted by laser.The improved accuracy during surgery that this new technique allows provides improved success rates compared to previous ablation techniques.

This new procedure was pioneered in the UK at The Heart Hospital in London by Consultant Cardiologist Dr Oliver Segal . He states:  “The laser balloon is an incredibly exciting technology for treating patients with paroxysmal (or intermittentStopping or ceasing for a time.) atrial fibrillationA common abnormal heart rhythm causing a rapid, irregular pulse and failure of the upper chambers of the heart (atria) to pump properly. Abbreviated to AF.. It appears to be significantly better than existing technology in achieving pulmonary vein isolation after just one attempt. This means patients will be much less likely to need two ablation procedures and therefore much less likely to develop a complicationA condition that is linked to, or is a consequence of, another disease or procedure. from ablation, which can include stroke, cardiacRelating to the heart perforationThe formation of a hole in an organ or tissue., emergency surgery and on very rare occasions, death.”

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