Joy Seiler’s irregular heart beat was hindering her quality of life. The 55-year-old Jacksonville resident would experience shortness of breath and become lightheaded, forcing her to lay down. The episodes would last for five or six hours a day and she was afraid to have her grandchildren over for a visit. “I’d try to take deep breaths and relax and then it would finally correct itself,” said Seiler, who was diagnosed two years ago with atrial fibrillation (A-fib) and placed on medication.
At times, her symptoms would happen when she was driving and would have to pull her car off to the side of the road. “It was getting very scary. I had to take action or something was going to happen to me,” she said.
Seiler and her husband own a construction business where they build and remodel houses. She works on the computer doing invoices and requests and wasn’t able to go out as often to do estimates for remodeling jobs. She also couldn’t spend as much time with her four children and eight grandchildren.
That changed after a new heart ablation procedure in May performed by Venkata Sagi, MD, cardiac electrophysiologist with Baptist Heart Specialists. Dr. Sagi used a new THERMOCOOL® SmartTOUCH® Catheter for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation (Afib).
Dr. Sagi and fellow electrophysiologists Scott Lee, MD, and Chris Ruisi, MD, were the first in the Jacksonville area to start using the new catheter this past spring. Used for complex cardiac ablation, the catheter helps to improve patient outcomes, increase safety and reduce fluoroscopy exposure. The new technology enables doctors to accurately control the amount of contact force applied to the heart wall during radiofrequency catheter ablation procedures.
An ablation cures the abnormal heart rhythm by destroying certain heart tissues that cause the irregular rhythm. During a minimally invasive catheter ablation procedure, doctors insert a therapeutic catheter through a small incision in the groin where it is then weaved up to the heart through a blood vessel. Once it reaches the left upper chamber of the heart (atrium), the catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the heart wall to create lesions that block faulty electrical impulses that can cause heart rhythm disorders.
Prior to the SmartTOUCH, Dr. Lee, director of electrophysiology for Baptist Heart Specialists, said it was more difficult to know if too much pressure was being put on the heart, which could cause a hole in the heart or bleeding. “With this new catheter, we can be more precise,” Dr. Lee said. “Overall, the procedure is safer, more thorough and sometimes quicker.”
Abnormal heart rhythms can make people very uncomfortable and susceptible to blood clots and strokes, Dr. Lee said. “They are very miserable with their symptoms. Their heart is racing fast all the time,” Dr. Lee said.
An estimated three million Americans suffer from Afib, a progressive disease that increases in severity and frequency if left untreated, and can lead to chronic fatigue, congestive heart failure and stroke. While most Afib patients today are treated with drugs, about half of patients are not able to control their abnormal heart rhythm with drugs or find they cannot tolerate the side effects.
Since the procedure in May, Seiler said she’s “been feeling fantastic. I’m relaxing now and getting on with my life and it feels good.”