Baby, It's Cold Inside! Taking Chilly Approach to Treating Heart Rhythm Disorders at Advocate Christ Medical Center

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Physicians at Advocate Christ Medical Center are releasing a coolant inside a small balloon that is placed in the left atrium of the heart to treat atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder. The coolant, delivered in the form of a gas, drops the temperature of the heart tissue to minus-40 degrees Centigrade, thereby destroying the cells that create the abnormal electrical signals resulting in heart rhythm problems.

You may get a cold heart, but doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center say that could prove the best treatment for a common heart rhythm disorder.

Using a device called the Arctic Front Advance™ Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter, physicians at Christ Medical Center are releasing a coolant inside a small balloon, which is placed in the left atrium of the heart, to treat paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (PAF). PAF is a disorder in which the heartbeat sporadically goes out of rhythm – seems to skip beats, flip-flop or quiver – before returning to normal. The coolant, delivered in the form of a gas, drops the temperature of the heart tissue to approximately minus-40 degrees Centigrade. The freezing prompts formation of scar tissue and destroys the cells creating abnormal electrical signals that result in atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, affects nearly three million Americans. The disorder occurs when the heart’s electrical system controlling the heartbeat malfunctions. Instead of a normal electrical signal prompting muscles in both chambers of the heart to work uniformly, rogue heart cells generate additional signals, causing the heart muscles to contract at different times. Symptoms of this progressive condition include fatigue, shortness of breath and even mental changes, like depression. If left untreated, A-fib can lead to blood clots, stroke and heart attack.

PAF is an early stage of A-fib when the disease is most treatable – up to 75 percent to 80 percent curative success rate.

Until now, physicians have relied on the use of radio-frequency ablation, a traditional, minimally invasive procedure that applies heat to the offending heart cells that are causing the A-fib. However, the new, arctic-therapy technology is resulting in a shorter procedure time and allowing physicians to treat the triggers of atrial fibrillation safely and more effectively, according to Manoj Duggal, MD, cardiologist specializing in electrophysiology at Christ Medical Center.

To apply the freezing gas to the heart, the cardiologist inserts a catheter into the patient’s femoral vein in the groin area and then threads it up to the heart under the guidance of ultrasound and X-ray imaging. When the pulmonary vein has been reached on the left side of the heart and then isolated, physicians use an inflatable balloon on the catheter to release the coolant and create the scar tissue, thereby killing the cells that trigger abnormal electrical signals.

Both the hot (radio-frequency) and cold (cryoablation) procedures work well for specific patients, Dr. Duggal emphasized. “What’s important is that we now have great flexibility to choose the right procedure for the individual patient and consistently achieve the best possible outcomes.”

Patients best qualified for the Arctic Front Advance™ Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter are diagnosed with PAF, have not responded to medications and have a left heart atrium that is normal or near-normal in size. The size of the left atrium is key to the procedure’s success, Dr. Duggal said. As the atrium enlarges, the success rate diminishes.

“When performed on the right patient at the right time, the results are excellent,” he added.

More information about the technology is available by calling 1-800-3-ADVOCATE (800.323.8622). A video featuring Dr. Duggal and an arctic-therapy patient can be viewed at .

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