Swedish Medical Center offers new procedure for atrial fibrillation




Posted on February 12, 2011 at 6:57 PM

Updated Friday, Jan 4 at 10:44 AM

Just going up stairs used to be a challenge for Steve Beer. Steve had a-fibrillation. Although he'd rather be hiking than sitting, his heart was working against him.

"Atrial fibrillation is a condition where the two upper chambers of the heart. The right atrium and the left atrium don't contract properly, and they begin just wiggling. And some people refer to it as a bag of worms if you look at it like that," said Dr. David Gartman, Swedish Cardiac Surgery.

Medication and catheter ablation, which zaps the overactive tissue, didn't work.

"There's a sizable minority - 10-15 percent - that do not respond in spite of multiple catheter ablation procedures," said Dr. Darryl Wells, Swedish Heart & Vascular Institute.

So Steve became the first patient at Swedish Medical Center to undergo a hybrid procedure - two different treatments in one.

"It appealed to me because I was thinking OK it's possible I might have 2 or 3 more ablations and that's not really the most fun to go through so when he said we could probably fix it on one more trip, that's what got me interested," he said.

The usual catheter procedure only targets the interior of the heart. With the hybrid procedure, the outside of the heart is targeted first.

Two approaches are performed one after the other in the same procedure.

"I've never had any of my patients be as happy about having their heart problem cured as the atrial fibrillation patients," said Dr. Gartman. "They're just ecstatic to come off their medications, to come off their blood thinners and they just feel so much better."

Steve says his energy is now five to10 times what it used to be and he is now completely off his medications.

David A. Gartman MD

Darrell S. Wells MD