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Atrial fibrillation treatment saves woman from potential blood clot

Emily Jones, 49, suffered from atrial fibrillation, the most common type of irregular heartbeat, for nearly four years before she was properly diagnosed.

“When my heart fluttered, I thought I was having anxiety attacks,” she says.

Always active – “I went from running the Peachtree Road Race to not being able to run a flight of stairs,” – Jones realized something was not right.

During an annual physical, her physician noted her heart was beating a little slowly. When she returned the following year for her next physical, her heartbeat was still abnormal. Jones’ doctor recommended a stress test.

“When I did the stress test, the machine went haywire,” she remembers. “They asked if I was anxious, but I wasn’t.”

Her primary care physician read the test results and referred her to a cardiologist.

“The cardiologist told me I would need surgery [to treat the arrhythmia], but that scared me,” she says. “I left.”

Frightened at the thought of surgery, Jones tried to deny her symptoms, but they continued for several more years.

“I was tired, my heart would often flutter and I would get winded easily, such as when I took the stairs,” she says. “My coworkers started to notice.”

Ready to put her health problems behind her, Jones made an appointment with Piedmont Heart Institute cardiologist Joseph Miller, III, M.D. Dr. Miller confirmed the first cardiologist’s diagnosis: Jones indeed suffered from atrial fibrillation, which required medical intervention. He referred her to Piedmont electrophysiologist Andy Wickliffe, M.D. An electrophysiologist is specially trained to manage electrical problems with the heart.

Meeting with Dr. Wickliffe

At the appointment, Dr. Wickliffe determined Jones’ atrial fibrillation could be corrected with ablation. She also learned if she didn’t receive treatment, she could develop a blood clot in her heart and lungs.

They scheduled a cryoablation procedure, which freezes heart tissue to stop the arrhythmia.  

However, Jones remained apprehensive about the procedure. A few days later, as she sat in the waiting room at an unrelated orthopaedic appointment, she heard a familiar voice on the television.

“I looked up and saw it was Dr. Wickliffe on CNN discussing arrhythmia treatment,” says Jones. “That solidified my decision – I knew he was the very best at what he does.”  

Her treatment

She successfully underwent cryoablation in November of 2012.

“I don’t run marathons, but I’m active again,” she says. “I lost 25 pounds from regular walks and water aerobics. I feel good.”

Jones encourages others to see their physician if something is not right.

“Get checked,” she says.

To learn more about atrial fibrillation, visit Piedmont Heart Institute

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