COAFEX Consumer Oriented Atrial Fibrillation ExperienceExchange

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Challenge With AF Ablation Therapy

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) from an ablation therapy standpoint is the proverbial good news bad news challenge. The good news is AF is a quick and certain diagnosis once documented via an ECG and the specific location in the left atrium to ablate or "short circuit" the AF arrythmia can be determined with a high degree of certainty. The not so good news is navigating the ablation catheter ( device that delivers the radio frequency energy) to this specific spot is difficult and can be very time consuming. Why? The electrophysiologist (cardiologist that specializes in cardiac arrythmia) encounters a few daunting challenges while navigating the ablation catheter along its' journey. To reach the chosen destination in the left atrium, the physician has two routes that the ablation catheter can follow. The longer route is called the retrograde approach. This route has a few hair pin turns the catheter must follow which can pose some catheter handling problems once it has reached its' destination, but has been considered a safer and more sure route. The second, more direct route, requires the physician to "build a tunnel" from the right side of the heart directly to the left atrium. The clinical term for this procedure is trans-septal puncture.  To build the tunnel, the physician "pokes a hole" or puntures the septum which is the heart structure seperating the right and left sides of the heart. Follow the link above to get an idea of the two routes. The trans-septal puncture raises the risk of certain complications. This procedure has been utilized for several years now and most certified electrophysiologists have performed hundreds of successful left sided ablations using the trans-septal approach. In deciding on an EP physician to perform your AF ablation, it is a good idea to talk with them and learn their chosen route to the left atrium and if they do take the shortcut, how many trans-septal punctures have they performed? Next time, I will give an overview of the essential technology that is used by the electrophysiologists to assist in navigating the abalation catheter.
If anyone, particularly a post AF ablation patient, would share personal experiences regarding catheter navigation approaches their physician utilized, it would benefit all of us.

Thanks,
Jim Accord

COAFEX Consumer Oriented Atrial Fibrillation Experience Xchange


Approximately two million people in the US have atrial fibrillation. Fifty FDA approved drugs exist to treat AF, none which currently offer a cure. Advances in medical technology has given AF patients a promising curative therapy option. The procedure, known as Atrial Fibrillation Radio Frequency Catheter Ablation or AF Ablation, has been performed on thousands of AF patients over the past few years. Much data exists describing the symptoms of AF, the best heart centers to have an AF ablation procedure and the most experienced cardiology specialists (Electrophysiologists) to perform the procedure. However, the personal stories from YOU, the patient consumer, seems to be data not easily found, hence the purpose of this blog site. We invite you to share in your words, from your own experience, your AF ablation story. How long have you had AF? What was your path to diagnosis? How did you decide on your hospital treatment center and your physician to perform the procedure? How has your AF changed since the ablation? Your stories represent the most powerful voice in health care. The information you choose to share will be shared with hospitals and physicians all over the world. This information exchange will be an invaluable measuring stick in determining how effective AF ablation has been to date and how to broaden access to care for the hundreds of thousands considering or waiting on an AF ablation.

COAFEX Founder

I have been involved in the arrythmia management industry,of which atrial fibrillation is a part, for almost 20 years. My focus has been in the business development of new technology. I have worked in some capacity, for every major technology company in atrial fibrillation ablation. I have traveled the world interacting with physician thought leaders and heart centers.

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Roswell, Georgia, United States
Married 33 years to my hometown sweetheart,Susie. We have 5 kids; 4 girls, 25,23,19 and 15 and a son who is 21.