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.

Read More »

Cardiac Ablation Keeps Rower on the Water

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital August 6, 2013

Mike Cataldo continues to be competitive after undergoing a cardiac ablation procedure to treat an abnormally rapid heartbeat.

Imagine being diagnosed with a medical condition that could force you to give up your lifelong passion. Seven years ago, Mike Cataldo was faced with that very situation. A former member of the U.S. rowing team who has competed in hundreds of races, Mike was preparing for the Head of the Charles Regatta in Cambridge, an event that attracts rowers worldwide.

“I was training for my first singles event, and the workouts were pretty intense,” says Mike, who has been rowing since he was a teenager. “I noticed that I was getting abnormally high readings on my heart rate monitor. Initially, I thought that the monitor was defective, but a new one gave me the same high numbers.”

Indeed, his monitor was registering numbers as high as 190 beats per minute, far above his typical training rate of 140 beats per minute, and an electrocardiogram (EKG) revealed heart rates over 225 beats per minute. A stress test verified that Mike had atrial tachycardia, a type of cardiac arrhythmia or heart rhythm disturbance that originates in the upper chambers of the heart and causes the heart to beat too fast.

Read More »

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.

Read More »