Management of Atrial Fibrillation

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 24, 2013

Catheter ablation involves guiding a small tube through the veins and into the heart, where electrodes are used to eliminate the heart cells causing arrhythmia.

Atrial fibrillation describes an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) wiggle ineffectively without pumping properly, and with chaotic rather than orderly contraction.

Often, but not always, people with atrial fibrillation experience a rapid, irregular heartbeat that can be bothersome or even frightening, and also can sometimes cause low blood pressure, low heart output, and faintness or fatigue. Left unchecked, prolonged rapid heart beating can lead to formations of blood clots in the atria that can travel to the brain causing a stroke. A prolonged, uncontrolled heart rate can weaken the heart muscle, resulting in heart failure.

Dr. Peter Libby, Chief of the Division Cardiovascular Medicine, and Dr. Laurence M. Epstein, Chief of the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offer insight into management of atrial fibrillation.

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New Heart Device May Save and Extend Lives

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 8, 2013

Anthony Andrews (36) believes that a new device, called a subcutaneous implantable defibrillator, will give him a chance at a longer life.

At 36 years old, Anthony Andrews has struggled with health problems for most of his adult life. Currently on dialysis for kidney failure, Andrews also has a complex family history of heart disease, as well as vascular issues. As a result, Andrews has had no options for a life-saving intervention should a cardiac emergency occur – until now.

In November 2012, he became the first person in New England to receive a new type of heart defibrillator, or ICD, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration just two months ago.

The cardiac device, called a subcutaneous implantable defibrillator (S-ICD), is implanted under the skin and delivers an electric shock to the heart to treat an abnormally rapid heartbeat. Unlike a traditional ICD, which involves one or more insulated wires that run from the device through a patient’s vein to the lower chamber of the heart, the S-ICD does not require access to a patient’s heart or blood vessels.

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