Cardiovascular and cardiothoracic specialists at The Valley Hospital are leading the way in the development of new and more effective therapies for the treatment atrial fibrillation, the most common form of irregular heartbeat.
Atrial fibrillation is a very fast, uncontrolled heart rhythm caused when the upper chambers of the heart – the atria – send rapidly firing electrical impulses that cause them to quiver instead of beat. It affects an estimated 2 million Americans and is responsible for as many as 70,000 strokes each year, according to the American Heart Association.
Fortunately, effective treatments are available, and at the Valley Hospital, patients with atrial fibrillation can be assured of access to the latest and most effective treatments and the widest range of treatment options.
From medication, to the non-surgical catheter-based approach, to the latest in minimally invasive surgical techniques, Valley's cardiovascular specialists are at the forefront of the latest treatments for abnormal heart rhythms.
Valley was the first hospital in New Jersey to offer catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation and is one of only a select group of hospitals – and the only one in New Jersey -- offering a minimally invasive surgical approach to the treatment of this heart rhythm disorder.
Click here to view a webcast of this procedure.
When medications are not effective or are not an option, catheter ablation, a non-surgical procedure, is considered the next best option prior to resorting to surgery for atrial fibrillation. While catheter ablation has been successfully applied to nearly all types of arrhythmias with great success, ablation for atrial fibrillation has proven to be a more complex endeavor and is only available at select hospitals. Valley was the first hospital in New Jersey to offer catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation.
"The mechanism behind atrial fibrillation is more complex than that of other arrhythmias, and it tends to involve multiple regions of the heart, so very few hospitals offer catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation," says Jonathan S. Steinberg, M.D., The Valley Hospital's Director of Electrophysiology Studies.
"At The Valley Hospital we're proud to be the first in New Jersey to offer this procedure and we have by far the largest experience in performing catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation," said Dr. Steinberg, who also serves as the Chief of the Division of Cardiology and Director of the Arrhythmia Service at Luke's Roosevelt Hospital, and is a Professor of Medicine at Columbia University.
The procedure involves inserting a specially designed thin tube (catheter) through a vein in the leg up to the heart. The catheter is then positioned at the site in the heart responsible for the abnormal rhythm. The tip of the catheter then delivers high frequency -- or radiofrequency -- energy to the site, destroying the abnormal electrical impulses, leading to the reduction or elimination of the atrial fibrillation. The procedure is done under mild sedation with local anesthesia and usually requires an overnight hospital stay.
"In about 75 percent of the cases, we are able to eliminate the atrial fibrillation completely," Dr. Steinberg said.
The Valley Hospital is one of a select group of hospitals -- and the only one in New Jersey – to offer a minimally invasive surgical approach to the treatment of atrial fibrillation.
Research has shown that in the vast majority of cases the source of the atrial fibrillation originates around the pulmonary veins that feed into the heart. An effective way of treating atrial fibrillation is to use microwave energy to form scar tissue that blocks the abnormal electrical impulses. The process is known as pulmonary vein isolation.
The traditional surgical approach involved extensive incisions in the chest, the use of a heart-lung machine, suturing of the atria of the heart and a relatively long operative time. As a result, surgeons tend to be reluctant to widely apply the technique.
The best candidates for the minimally invasive surgical procedure are those whose atrial fibrillation can not be controlled either by medication or through a less-invasive, non-surgical ablation techniques.