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Man feels decades younger after treatment for irregular heartbeat

“In 2004, I was having back surgery at another hospital and I went into atrial fibrillation,” says Ray Crisp, an ablation patient at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital. Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of heart arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats. Crisp’s back surgery was postponed until he could be treated for atrial fibrillation.

He soon learned that he had likely been suffering from the condition for years. “You can be sitting around watching TV and all of a sudden, it feels like your heart is pounding out of your chest. You get a really rapid heartbeat, start feeling bad and get short of breath. This went on for years and I kind of got used to it. I didn’t know I was actually suffering from atrial fib.”

Atrial fibrillation treatment

When medication is not successful in treating the condition, a doctor may perform an ablation, using a catheter to go into the heart and burn or freeze the tissue that is causing the irregularity. In Crisp's case, his physicians determined a cryoablation was his best treatment option.

During this procedure, a 28-millimeter cryoballoon inserted into the body through a catheter to freeze large areas of tissue in the heart. “I had all of these little renegade currents that were going wild,” says Crisp. “The doctors go in and freeze those circuits.

The whole premise is that your heart will eventually fall back into rhythm and stay in rhythm.” Crisp says he noticed an immediate improvement following the catheter ablation procedure. However, in his case, a second procedure was needed.

In some patients, it takes more than one ablation to restore a normal heartbeat. “I had a second procedure done about two months later,” he says. “I’ve been in a normal rhythm for seven or eight years.”

Preventing more serious complications

“If you bounce in and out of atrial fib, that’s when you start worrying about having a stroke or getting a blood clot,” says Crisp. “We decided we had to do something.

Ablation was pretty much my only option.” Crisp suffered from many of his medications’ side effects, but within six months was able to gradually decrease and eventually stop taking his medications.

Since undergoing the second ablation procedure, his heart rhythm has returned to normal and his activity level has increased significantly. “I’m pretty much doing what I did when I was 30 years old.” For more information about atrial fibrillation and the latest cryoablation technology, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.

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