Technology helps save CT man with atrial fibrillation - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Advancing Medicine

Technology helps save CT man with atrial fibrillation

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HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) -

In October of 2012, a Hartford Hospital Board of Directors member joined forces with others to put together efforts to try and stop atrial fibrillation.

Greg Jones said in October two years ago, the Take Charge of Your Health series, the Black Men's Health Project, began.

"We do monthly visits to barber shops and churches in our community to talk about health, encouraging people to be responsive to take care of their health but also to be aware of the chronic diseases that we suffer from," Jones said.

Dr. Andrew Salner, of Hartford Hospital, said African American men have higher rates of certain cancers.

"Men of African American or West Indian descent have a higher risk of prostate cancer by approximately 50 percent and have a higher risk of dying of prostate cancer by almost 100 percent as compared to Caucasian men," Salner said.

When it comes to colon cancer, Salner said it is a slightly higher rate, and is a higher mortality rate, and he said he believes a lot of that is due to access to screening and early detection.

The outreach includes screening for colon cancers.

Nurses, like Vicie Brooks, check for other issues too, including high blood pressure.

"Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal failure. So it's all related to the high blood pressure," Brooks said, adding that it isn't good to see a number for that to be greater than 120.

If they see something they don't like, they get these guys to understand they need to be treated and that's what happened with Stanley Sanders, whose blood pressure was a little bit high.

"I'll make my appointments," Sanders said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death in men. Some heart issues are related to the heart's plumbing, like blockages, and others are the result of faulty wiring in the heart or electrical issues. One such problem is atrial fibrillation.

Chris Jeffers said 20 years ago on a climb with friends he noticed something was not right.

"I moved very slowly, and I didn't associate that with anything other than encroaching old age. I had, before that, begun to notice particularly when I was just going to bed, a strange rhythm in my heart," Jeffers said.

He said he saw a cardiologist in California who diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation.

"Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia that patients have in the United States and in the world. That is a disorganized rhythm involving the upper chambers of the heart, the atria," said Dr. Robert Hagberg, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Hartford Hospital.

Realizing the strange rhythm wasn't going away on its own, his doctor put him on medication. While it worked, Jeffers said after a period of months he noticed he was back into arrhythmia, bad rhythm.

The next thing he tried was electroversion, which was done in the hospital.

"Basically the idea is to stop the heart, restart it and it tends, the heart tends very much of the time to restart normally," Jeffers said, adding that worked for a bit but then it stopped working.

After his third electroversion things were good, he said, but then it came back and went away on its own, and he spent decades of a back-and-forth, until eventually it didn't go away at all.

Doctors at Hartford Hospital's A-Fib center have a number of options for atrial fibrillation. Some A-Fib can be fixed with a procedure through a catheter in the leg that will put an end to the chaotic beats.

However, because Jeffers had what's known as long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation, which means the patient is always in atrial fibrillation, a catheter approach would likely not have been effective, said Hagberg.

Ultimately, Hagberg told Jeffers about a new process the hospital was offering called the Cox Maze Four procedure.

"They open up your chest and go in and create walls and moats around this rogue source of nerve impulses that was sending the heart into irregular rhythms," said Jeffers.

The way the maze is created is by "either burning, freezing or cutting both atria in a pattern so that the, the maze allows the normal electrical activity to start at the top part of the heart and go to the bottom part of the heart," Hagberg said.

He added that the burning is done to about 2 percent of the overall muscle of the atria, and the rest of the atrial tissue does not suffer.

Jeffers had the surgery done last August, and his A-Fib is finally gone.

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