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Sentara Heart & Vascular Center introduces new minimally invasive technique for atrial fibrillation

WOODBRIDGE — On Monday, April 2, 2018, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center ushered in a new level of care with the introduction of left-sided pulmonary vein ablation. The Sentara Heart & Vascular Team, led by Dr. Aysha Arshad, Medical Director of Electrophysiology, performed the first of its kind procedure for the hospital.

“This is wonderful for our community,” says Dr. Arshad. “This means the beginning of more complex procedures in the Electrophysiology Lab here at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, which opens up these vital services to members of our community. They won’t have to travel long distances for care because our highly experienced staff and physicians are the same that are working in all the top hospital centers in the area.”

Left-side pulmonary vein ablation or pulmonary vein isolation is used to treat Atrial Fibrillation, also known as AFib. AFib is a type of heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat that an estimated seven million Americans live with every day.

In atrial fibrillation, disorganized electrical signals originate in the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, causing the rhythm to be irregular. Because the contractions are not coordinated as in a normal heartbeat, the heart does not pump blood effectively to the rest of the body causing patients to experience a racing or quivering heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath and often feel tired.

People with AFib have a five times greater risk for stroke. 

After living with the condition for three-years, Woodbridge resident Claudia Warszawski, was looking for relief.

“I’m a very active 67-year-old. I walk three days a week at the mall and I just couldn’t keep up my pace. I’d have to stop and it was irritating,” said Warszawski.

After consulting with the grandmother of five and reviewing her history, Dr. Arshad shared she was a perfect candidate for the procedure. 

As the Electrophysiology program at Sentara Heart & Vascular Center has grown, so have the services. Left-sided ablation is the latest advancement of the program. In ablation, areas of tissue in the heart that cause arrhythmias are destroyed. 

“In left-sided procedures, where AFib comes from, it involves tackling circuits on the left side of the heart. There’s no natural passage to the left side of the heart, so we enter through a vein in the leg and travel to the chest where we make a tiny puncture in the interatrial septum with a small needle and pass a catheter through that tiny hole to the left side of the heart. From there we create a 3D map of the heart and get to the circuits that cause AFib,” explains Dr. Arshad.

After the procedure is completed and the catheter removed, the tiny hole heals on its own over the next four weeks. A chip, implanted in the chest at the time of the procedure, allows real-time monitoring of the patient.

“It’s the whole advent of real-time telemedicine,” explains Dr. Arshad, “The device will track her rhythm all day and at night transcribe it into a report, which will be emailed to me that evening. The device downloads all that data so I’ll know how she’s going to do long-term.”

As for Warszawski, days after her procedure she’s already feeling better, “This gives me a new lease to live the life I want before I was tired and always had heart palpitations and flutters. Now, I can’t even feel my heart beating, and that’s a good thing!”

If you’re experiencing a racing, fluttering, pounding or irregular heartbeat, don’t ignore those symptoms, find a healthcare provider at 1-800-SENTARA or Sentara.com to schedule your exam.   

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