Posted 6:49 PM 12/30/2011 : Life changing heart surgery first of its kind in Colorado
It's a debilitating problem affecting millions of people with abnormal heart rhythms. Atrial Fibrillation, also known as irregular heart rhythm, affects more than three million Americans each year. It is one of the most prevailing problems among baby boomers.
"A great number of people have symptoms ranging from fatigue, shortness of breathe, severe limitations on daily activities and there can be some serious [and] dangerous consequences" said Dr. Brad Mickaelian, Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Memorial Hospital.
But a new procedure is helping patients in Colorado have a potentially better quality of life.
The procedure is called hybrid ablation which involves two physicians who will work on the outside and inside of the heart simultaneously.
Although ablations themselves are not uncommon, performing them simultaneously on both the internal and external walls of the heart is rare.
"This is not a procedure that's done in every medical center that does heart surgery. This is a pretty unique approach", said Dr. Chris Wehr, Cardiothoracic surgeon at Memorial Hospital.
During the procedure, doctors use two approaches. The catheter approarch allows doctors to go through the veins in the legs up to the heart which targets the area that causes the abnormal rhythms. The surgical approach, or what's sometimes called the mini maze, creates an isolated lesion around the pulmonary vein; creating scar tissue that blocks the irregular rhythm from getting into the left atrium.
"By having this procedure, it will decrease the chance for second or third procedures down the road", said Dr. Brad Mickaelian.
The procedure takes about four hours to complete. Patients usually recover in the hospital within three to four days.