New surgical procedure treats irregular heart rhythms
Minimally invasive technique targets the heart’s upper chambers, may reduce stroke risk
Monday, July 17, 2006
Some other tag detected
Some other tag detected
RICHMOND, Va. (July
17, 2006) – Doctors at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical
Center are performing a new procedure that may eliminate atrial
fibrillation, a common rhythm abnormality in the heart's upper chambers
and a major cause of stroke.
The technique, called
a modified Mini-Maze, offers hope to patients who previously have had
limited treatment options.
During the procedure,
surgeons insert instruments into the chest through several keyhole-size
incisions between the ribs. With the aid of a tiny video camera, a
specially designed instrument is placed around the top of one of the
atria and energy is delivered to destroy the tissue near the origin of
the irregular impulses.
The damaged tissue
disrupts the abnormal signaling pathways, stopping the irregular
"This is a
significant advance in the management of atrial fibrillation," said Vigneshwar Kasirajan, M.D., chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at the VCU
Medical Center's Pauley Heart Center. "We've known for sometime this
could be an effective strategy for treating the abnormal rhythm, but
until now we haven't had the tools to do it efficiently."
or a-fib, is an irregular heart rhythm caused by abnormal electrical
impulses that begin at the top of the heart and travel down the upper
chambers, or atria, causing them to contract erratically. The irregular
rhythm interferes with the heart's ability to efficiently pump blood. As
a result, blood can pool in the atria, which can lead to the formation
of clots and the possibility of a stroke.
For years, doctors
have used catheters to ablate or burn sites inside the atria and
ventricles – the heart's lower pumping chambers – that cause
arrhythmias. Many a-fib patients are treated with anti-arrhythmic
medications and anticoagulant drugs to prevent clots from forming.
evaluate patients before recommending them for the Mini-Maze procedure,"
said Kenneth Ellenbogen, M.D., director of the cardiac electrophysiology
lab at VCU. "It is primarily for patients who are too old for catheter
ablation, had a previous, unsuccessful ablation or are unable to
tolerate blood thinners."
ablation, which treats the inside of the heart, the Mini-Maze technique
is performed on the heart's surface which may offer a "more complete
ablation of the abnormal impulses that trigger arrhythmias," according
trained for a year before performing the first Mini-Maze procedure in
the American Heart Association, more than 2 million people in the United
States suffer from atrial fibrillation, and about 300,000 cases are
diagnosed each year. In addition to an increased risk for stroke, a-fib
is a major contributor in the development of congestive heart failure as
well as more serious, life threatening arrhythmias.
About the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center
The Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center is one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers and stands alone as the most comprehensive academic medical center in Central Virginia. The medical center includes the 865-bed MCV Hospitals and outpatient clinics, MCV Physicians -- a 600-physician-faculty group practice, and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University. The VCU Medical Center, through its VCU Health System, offers state-of-the-art care in more than 200 specialty areas, many of national and international note, including organ transplantation, head and spinal cord trauma, burn healing and cancer treatment. The VCU Medical Center is the site for the region’s only Level 1 Trauma Center. As a leader in healthcare research, the VCU Medical Center offers patients the opportunity to choose to participate in programs that advance evolving treatment, such as those sponsored by the National Cancer Institute through VCU’s Massey Cancer Center, Virginia’s first NCI-designated cancer center. The VCU Medical Center’s academic mission is supported by VCU’s health sciences schools of medicine, allied health, dentistry, pharmacy and nursing.