Michael Link, 70, can be found at a local YMCA doing his multi-hour workout regimen of walking on the treadmill and doing strength training on weight machines five days a week.
Just four months ago, Link was still experiencing shortness of breath and fatigue from his chronic atrial fibrillation, or AFIB. His heart had gone into the arrhythmia nearly eight years earlier following a bad drug reaction after knee surgery. Since then, the condition forced Link to limit daily activity.
“I like the outdoor things. I sail, backpack, and bicycle and the AFIB really limited my activity,” recalled Link. “I didn’t want to start aging with one hand behind my back.”
Multiple failed treatments including ablation and cardioversion procedures left him feeling frustrated and out of options. Then his physician mentioned a new procedure for patients with chronic AFIB being performed at TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center in Nashville, Tenn., called ‘nContact.’ This innovative treatment allows for two minimally invasive procedures to be combined into one by sequencing first the surgical procedure and then the ablation. Recovery was described as minimum and reported patient outcomes have been positive.
Link was immediately ready to try the new treatment option. He scheduled consultations with Gregory Bashian, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist, and V. Seenu Reddy, M.D., cardiovascular surgeon, the heart specialists working together on this new procedure at TriStar Centennial. They deemed Link was a good candidate for the procedure and scheduled a surgery date for December 2012.
To perform the procedure, the heart specialists work together in TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center’s state-of-the-art, hybrid-enabled electrophysiology lab. The surgical procedure is performed first, followed by the ablation of the remaining areas of the left atrium.
The procedure worked. Link’s heart has been in sinus rhythm more than four months and he has come off of his arrhythmia medication.
“The new surgery made all the difference in the world,” he said. “In less than two weeks, I was back to doing all the things I did before the AFIB years ago.”
Link recognizes anything can change to put his heart back out of rhythm but he remains hopeful and is enjoying leading his normal life and activity level.
The new nContact hybrid ablation procedure
NContact is a new hybrid procedure for treating atrial fibrillation using surgical and minimally invasive therapies.
“The new nContact procedure combines the best techniques of electrophysiology and cardiovascular surgery to treat atrial fibrillation, or ‘AFIB’,” said Seenu Reddy, M.D., cardiovascular surgeon, TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center. “This minimally invasive procedure allows us to combine dual modalities for treating AFIB into one single procedure, rather than the patient having to undergo two separate procedures like they potentially had to previously.”
Most patients with atrial fibrillation can benefit from medication and ablation procedures to restore normal heart rhythm. For patients still experiencing atrial fibrillation after an ablation or who have a more persistent version of the disease, the nContact procedure is a new alternative treatment.
“Before nContact was available, AFIB patients who needed additional treatment beyond an ablation had to go through multiple procedures, taking a toll on their bodies and requiring a lot of their time for additional appointments and then recovery,” said Gregory Bashian, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist, TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center. “Now we are able to offer AFIB patients an alternative that will return their heart to a regular rhythm in one overall procedure and even reduce their recovery time.”
To perform the nContact procedure, a cardiac electrophysiologist and cardiac surgeon work together in TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center’s state-of-the-art, hybrid-enabled electrophysiology lab. The surgical procedure is performed first, followed by the ablation of the remaining areas of the left atrium. It takes about three to five hours to complete the entire procedure.
“Initial patient feedback and outcomes have been very positive,” said Bashian. “This alternative hybrid procedure is a great option to have available for our patients.”
Atrial fibrillation, commonly referred to as AFIB, is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm treated by physicians. A less-known heart condition to most, it has serious implications for the patient including increased risk of stroke and heart failure.
“When an arrhythmia like AFIB occurs, the electrical activity of the patient’s heart becomes disorganized,” explains Gregory Bashian, M.D., cardiac electrophysiologist at TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center in Nashville, Tenn. “AFIB can severely impact a patient’s daily routine and, over time, cause damage to the heart.”
As the Baby Boomer Generation is aging, AFIB is among the heart conditions that cardiologists like Bashian are concerned about negatively impacting mature adult health. He has seen an increase in the number of diagnosed cases of AFIB in Nashville and Middle Tennessee in his patients over recent years. Many more cases are thought to go undiagnosed because people aren’t aware of the condition and the serious health consequences.
“Today, over 3 million Americans have been diagnosed with AFIB. We anticipate that number to continue rising over the next decade,” he said. “The good news is that treatments for AFIB are rapidly advancing. Anyone who believes they may be experiencing symptoms of AFIB should schedule an appointment with their physician or cardiologist.”
Symptoms related to AFIB vary from mild to severe, while some people may not notice any symptoms. Common symptoms include an irregular or rapid heartbeat, a racing feeling in the chest, a pounding feeling in the chest, pain or pressure in the chest, dizziness or lightheadedness, sweating, extreme fatigue or weakness, shortness of breath, and exercise intolerance.
Risk factors include age, a family history of atrial fibrillation, cardiovascular or lung diseases, and chronic health conditions. Certain lifestyle factors including stress, stimulant drugs like caffeine, smoking, and alcohol abuse can also increase the risk of developing AFIB.
“Heart patients suffering from atrial fibrillation have more treatment options than ever with a goal of regaining a regular heart rhythm and improving long-term outcomes,” said Bashian. “The most important thing is not to ignore the symptoms and to visit your doctor right away. The sooner you receive treatment, the greater your chances of regaining a regular heart rhythm.”
Most patients with atrial fibrillation can benefit from a combination of medications, lifestyle changes, and ablation procedures to restore normal heart rhythm. For patients still experiencing AFIB after an ablation or who have structural heart disease, a new procedure called an nContact hybrid ablation is an alternative treatment option now available at TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center.
For more information about arrhythmia treatment options and the TriStar Centennial Heart & Vascular Center, visit TriStarHealth.com and select TriStar Centennial Medical Center or call TriStar MedLine® at (615) 342-1919.