Catheter ablation returns grandmother to good health

News Archive February 02, 2012 IN

Catheter ablation returns grandmother to good health

Catheter ablation returns grandmother to good health
Fran Bleers’ irregular heart beat caused congestive heart failure. After a successful ablation treatment, Fran finds new energy to spend time with her grandchildren.

Most people know someone with atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, the most common type of irregular heartbeat. Physicians are diagnosing A-fib more frequently than ever, which is concerning because it is a serious condition that can lead to stroke, cardiac arrest or heart failure.

Some physicians treat A-fib with medications that thin blood and slow heart rate, telling their patients that they have no other therapies available. Loyola’s five electrophysiology (EP) physicians, experts in the electrical workings of the heart, offer better solutions.

“We take a very intensive approach to heart rhythm control with specialized medicine that only EPs are certified to prescribe, and with certain procedures, such as catheter ablations, that only we are trained to perform,” said Smit Vasaiwala, MD, assistant professor, cardiology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Fran Bleers was 62 when she was diagnosed with A-fib in 2006. For five years, medication seemed to be managing her heart issues reasonably well. She didn’t know she was developing congestive heart failure.

“By late 2010, I was tired all the time,” remembered Fran. “A series of tests showed that my heart was only functioning at 20 percent. I realized my condition was more serious than I thought. My doctor said I might need a cardiac ablation and suggested Loyola since they are the best in the country.”

Loyola helped change the practice of medicine and established cardiac catheter ablation in the Chicago area. Today, its EP physicians perform approximately 550 ablations per year, making it one of the highest-volume programs in the Midwest.

During an ablation, the physician inserts a catheter (thin tube) through a small incision in the groin and guides it to the area of the patient’s heart where erratic electrical signals cause A-fib. Using the tip of the catheter to burn away the problematic heart tissue, the EP physician returns the heart into proper rhythm.

“Fran’s left atrium was significantly enlarged, and her congestive hear t failure made her a high-risk candidate for ablation,” Dr. Vasaiwala said. “Many medical centers nationwide would have taken a rather simple approach that would have meant living with a pacemaker and relying on medication to thin her blood.

“Yet we were confident that catheter ablations on the right and left sides of her upper chambers would restore her normal heart rhythm. We were happy to spare Fran from a life severely diminished by congestive heart failure.”

Loyola is again helping change the practice of medicine. The EP team is enrolling patients in clinical trials and has access to emerging technologies, including the latest 3D imaging and catheters. Their efforts could benefit future patients, but Fran is grateful for the care she received in February 2011. She is enjoying retirement with her husband, Paul, and loves spending time with her grandchildren. 

“I have improved tremendously, my heart has stayed in rhythm and Dr. Vasaiwala feels that it eventually could return to a normal size. Last fall, I went to the Dominican Republic and was able to do a lot of walking without any problems with my heart. I even hosted Thanksgiving. I couldn’t do these things the year before.”

Visit LoyolaMedicine.org/Heart or call (708) 216-8646 for more information.

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