Real Men Wear Gowns: Correcting irregular heart rhythms with cardiac ablation

Atrial fibrillation affects more than 2.5 million Americans and doctors say that it's curable.

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, or an irregular heart rhythm, affects more than 2.5 million people in the U.S. and is the leading cause of stroke and hospitalizations nationwide.

Electrophysiology is a field that deals with abnormal heart rhythms in patients, and it is the one field in medicine where doctors say they can offer a complete cure.

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"Patients come to us with palpitations, a fast heart rate, or abnormal heart rhythms," said Dr. Jayasree Pillarisetti, a University Health System cardiac electrophysiologist and assistant professor at UT Health San Antonio.

She says that those problems can be fatal, but also fixable.

"This is where patients are born with abnormal circuitry in the heart. We are able to identify where it is and ablate it, and these patients no longer have palpitations," Dr. Pillarisetti said.

Some of the risk factors for atrial fibrillation include sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

With cardiac ablation, catheters are put into the heart and physicians ablate, or burn, around the pulmonary veins, which are typically the trigger for atrial fibrillation.

"We go into the upper left chamber of the heart and we burn around the pulmonary veins and kill the tissue surrounding it, so the triggers that may be coming from these pulmonary veins do not get to the rest of the heart,” Dr. Pillarisetti explained.

Once the procedure is completed, doctors say that patients are amazed at how they feel.

"It brings about dramatic change in their quality of life,” Dr. Pillarisetti noted.

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