Heart & Vascular Institute Expands Treatment Options for Complex Arrhythmia

Published: July 22, 2014

Experts at Stamford Hospital’s Heart & Vascular Institute recently introduced a new, minimally invasive procedure called the “convergent approach” as a new option for helping restore normal heart rhythm in even the most difficult to treat patients suffering from arrhythmia.

“This approach can help restore normal heart rhythm for longtime arrhythmia sufferers, particularly patients with structural heart disease or persistent atrial fibrillation who may have previously failed one or more other treatments,” said Michael Coady, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Stamford Hospital. “Traditional surgical ablation approaches often require larger chest incisions – but by combining advanced endoscopy with leading cardiac surgery skills we can address the condition, confirm success and reduce the overall procedure time compared to open heart surgery alone.”

Each year, millions of people are affected by arrhythmias. For those with persistent atrial fibrillation, many of the existing treatments and medications fail to completely correct or manage the condition. The convergent approach combines the expertise of traditional catheter and surgical ablation treatments through a unique team approach which can result in much better outcomes. A cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist perform cardiac ablation together on a beating heart, a procedure that uses radiofrequency (focused heat) to produce lesions (scar tissue) on the heart and block abnormal electrical signals.

“Many patients with complex arrhythmias are frustrated after traditional methods fail to alleviate their condition,” said Sandhya Dhruvakumar, MD, Medical Director of Electrophysiology at Stamford Hospital. “We have several patients who, after undergoing the new approach, experience restored normal heart rhythm and were even able to reduce or eliminate certain daily medications shortly following treatment.”

An arrhythmia is an abnormality in the rhythm of the heartbeat, causing it to beat irregularly, either too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia). Arrhythmias can cause symptoms such as dizziness, light-headedness, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue – or have no symptoms at all. Some arrhythmias are bothersome yet harmless, but others can be life-threatening. Through early detection and treatment, arrhythmias can be diagnosed and successfully treated, with the goal of relieving symptoms, regaining normal heart rhythm, improving quality of life and reducing the risk of stroke or death from cardiac arrest.

Stamford Hospital’s electrophysiology procedures are conducted in a new, state-of-the-art electrophysiology lab that includes biplane fluoroscopy to provide enhanced imaging in real-time and reduced radiation exposure, the most advanced 3D mapping system for catheter navigation within the heart and the newest ablation techniques. The convergent approach adds to the Hospital’s broad innovative options to treat arrhythmias which include cardiac pacing, implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD), cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT), radiofrequency ablation and cryoablation. Stamford Hospital is the only hospital in the region that offers cryoablation, a non-surgical procedure that uses freezing techniques to treat atrial fibrillation. It was also the first hospital in Connecticut to perform cryoballoon ablation, where refrigerant is introduced to the catheter balloon to scar the heart tissue responsible for the electrical current causing the atrial fibrillation.

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