Posted by: | May 20, 2013

New Treatment Option at Duke Raleigh Puts Fluttering Hearts Back on Track

Atrial fibrillation or AFib is the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting around 2.2 million Americans. Some people with AFib describe the symptoms as a feeling like the heart is fluttering or skipping a beat. Now, thanks to new bi-plane technology at Duke Raleigh Hospital, patients can get their heartbeat back on track, closer to home.

“Atrial fibrillation makes you feel like your heart is going to go somewhere it doesn’t belong,” says Raleigh resident Mike Rieder about the condition he’s had for 15 years. Rieder was the first patient to have an AFib ablation in Duke Raleigh Hospital’s new bi-plane lab.

Although Rieder was on medication (an aspirin regimen and medications to slow his heart rate), AFib was impacting his quality of life. “[Having AFib] really saps your energy, he says. “Your pulse rate increases; mine would go up as high as 140. It’s hard to concentrate. It raises your anxiety levels.”

Rieder was referred to Kevin Jackson, MD, an electrophysiologist at Duke Cardiology of Raleigh for an ablation, a minimally invasive procedure that uses a catheter to burn away unwanted tissue.

Dr. Kevin Jackson

Kevin Jackson, MD

“The new lab allows us to do complex ablations, including atrial fibrillation ablation, closer to home for Wake County patients,” Jackson says. “Previously we would bring patients to Duke Hospital in order to use these advanced technologies. Now we have an identical facility available at Duke Raleigh.”

“Dr. Jackson explained [the ablation] to me—the risks involved, the fact that it works about 75 percent of the time,” said Rieder. “I was really impressed with his ability to anticipate my questions. He made me feel like I was his only patient for the day. I had great confidence in him.”

Rieder explains the process leading up to the ablation, which he had on November 13 of last year. “First, they did an MRI of my heart, which they can see in 3-D. That led doctors to discover I had three veins going into my heart instead of four, which most people have. That was very important to know. A day before the procedure, I had a transesophegeal echocardiogram, or TEE, to determine I didn’t have any blood clots. The ablation itself was a four-hour procedure. They go in your blood vessels through your legs to your heart.” He was out of the hospital the day after the procedure and back at work within a few days.

“After the procedure, I thought, ‘Wow, they used to have to do this through open-heart surgery,” he marvels.

The risks of leaving a heart rhythm disorder untreated can range from an elevated heart rate to a weakening of the heart muscle and blood clots, which increase the risk of stroke. Rieder, in fact, suffered a mild stroke, in May 2012. Since then, he’s been on Coumadin to prevent blood clots.

As Rieder knows, matters of the heart can never be taken lightly, but now—thanks to Duke Raleigh’s new facility—they can be treated close to home.

Learn more about atrial fibrillation.

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