New surgery to treat irregular heartbeat goes mainstream in CT - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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New surgery to treat irregular heartbeat goes mainstream in CT

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(WFSB photo) (WFSB photo)
DANBURY, CT (WFSB) -

A new surgery that helps treat a kind of irregular heartbeat is hitting the mainstream in Connecticut and it does not involve an anatomical changes to the heart.

It's called cryoablation and it' can be performed at Danbury Hospital.

Peter Keiser, 68, said he's a retired father of two and an avid tennis player.

"I never had any sign of [heart issues] before," he said. "It just didn't seem to be applicable."

Keiser said he just recently found out that he has atrial fibrillation, the most common form of arrhythmia of the heart.

"I would become short of breath, and when I say short of breath, I mean I couldn't catch my breath," he said.

At first, the shortness of breath was only happening when he was playing platform tennis. Months later, however, it started becoming more prevalent.

"It was occurring in different places," Keiser said. "I would get shortness of breath walking upstairs. Sometimes when I would lie down I could feel it. It was varied, the times that it'd happen, and it was more frequent as well."

He said he decided to head to Danbury Hospital to see electrophysiologist Dr. Murali Chiravuri.

"Atrial fibrillation is an extraordinarily common condition," Chiravuri said. "The prevalence is such that by the year 2030, we think about 12+ million Americans are going to have atrial fibrillation."

Multiple factors can increase someone's chance of getting the condition:

  • Genetic predisposition
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Lung conditions, such as obstructive sleep apnea
  • Environmental  triggers
  • Alcohol

"The majority of the triggers that get the patient or trip the patient into atrial fibrillation emanate from structures called the pulmonary veins, which are little conduits that empty oxygenated blood from the lungs back to the heart," Chiravuri said.

If left untreated, patients have a five-fold increased risk of a stroke, according to doctors.

The standard procedure that has been used for years to treat atrial fibrillation is radiofrequency ablation.

"The way we were delivering this radio frequency was little point lesions around these pulmonary veins," Chiravuri said.

Now, there's a new surgery that can correct the heart's irregular rhythm in a more timely and minimally invasion fashion.

Cryoablation involves a balloon and nitrous oxide.

The balloon is attached to a catheter and snaked up into the patient's vessels through the femoral vein in the groin site.

"Which we deliver to the opening of this pulmonary vein, we then inflate this balloon [and] prove that it's making a nice seal," Chiravuri said.

Once doctors have the right fit, the cryo agent, N2O, is released. It freezes the area and closes in on any gaps.

The abnormal signals can't escape and the heart can then do its job.

"I mean, just thinking about it, it is neat," Keiser  said.

Keiser said he had his surgery done last month.

The following morning, he was up and walking and returning to his daily routine.

Just a month after that, he was back to playing tennis.

"I'm playing all the time now," he said. "I can't tell you how good it feels."

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