Chuck’s Story: Minimally Invasive Treatment Relieves the Unsteady Heartbeat OF AFib

Chuck Miller could never rest peacefully, even during the most calming times of his life. That’s because the 72-year-old suffered from atrial fibrillation – an increasingly common, yet serious heart rhythm disorder that caused his heart rate to jump as high as 130 beats per minute without warning.

It was an unnerving feeling, but one that Miller managed to live with for 14 years with the help of various medications. Last fall, however, he was ready for a permanent solution when his episodes became more frequent, so he turned to his cardiologist, Kevin D. Kravitz, MD, for help. Miller’s timing couldn’t have been better. 

Dr. Kravitz, a cardiac electrophysiologist had just become the first Dayton specialist to treat atrial fibrillation patients with the new Arctic Front Advance™ Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter System. The system works by freezing the heart tissue around the pulmonary veins to help stop the abnormal electrical activity that causes an irregular heartbeat. The minimally invasive approach provides a quicker solution with better outcomes for patients – including decreased use of therapy drugs and improved quality of life, Dr. Kravitz said.

“Cryoballoon ablation is truly revolutionary in the process of treating atrial fibrillation – a condition that has become nearly epidemic in our increasingly aging population,” said Dr. Kravitz. “It is a simpler technology for patients. In the conventional ablation treatment we would burn around all four of the pulmonary veins, point by point, to encircle and electrically isolate them. This is a very tedious and time-consuming process. With cryoballoon, the balloon is inserted into each vein to freeze the entire circumference of the vein, electrically isolating it in a single freeze. This is easier, faster, and safer than the conventional ablation. Patients are under anesthesia for less time and are usually home the next day. They experience significant improvement of their quality of life and their risk of stroke is reduced.”

Miller was experiencing atrial fibrillation attacks eight out of nine days by the time he went in for the procedure. He returned home the day after the procedure feeling better than he expected. He noticed a dramatic difference almost immediately.

“Oh my goodness, this was a godsend,” Miller said from his Huber Heights home. “I just feel so calm now. It is amazing how different I feel compared to before the procedure. I can just sit and watch TV and feel so calm.”

Miller is slowly adding things back to his life that he gave up, such as soaking in a hot bath. Hot baths often triggered his atrial fibrillation attacks. He hopes to eventually be weaned off many of his medications.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common and undertreated heart rhythm disorders in the world. The disease, which involves the irregular quivering or rapid heart rhythm in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart, affects approximately three million Americans. A heart in AFib beats significantly faster than a normal heart does. When the heart does not contract in a normal rhythm, blood is not pumped completely out of the atria and may pool and clot. Half of all diagnosed patients fail drug therapy, and if left untreated, patients have up to a five times higher risk of stroke and an increased chance of developing heart failure. Additionally, since atrial fibrillation is often age-related, as the American population continues to grow older, the need for more effective treatment options is escalating.

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