IU Health using new procedure to freeze away irregular heartbeats

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 3, 2016)-- Most hearts keep a steady beat, but nearly 3 million Americans suffer from a condition called atrial fibrillation or a-fib. Doctors at IU Health are the first in Indiana to adopt a "cool" new approach to fixing the problem.

The icy procedure is called cryo-ablation. A non-surgical procedure that uses a balloon catheter filled with below freezing nitrous oxide that is fed up through the groin and into the heart where it deep freezes the faulty cells that cause irregular heart rhythms.

“We inflate the balloon and it sits against the blood vessels and it delivers cryo energy. So, it freezes the tissue surrounding the area where it contacts,” says IU Health Cardiologist Dr. Gopi Dandamudi.

A-fib is caused by disorganized electrical signals that confuse the heart and cause it to beat irregularly, sometimes as fast as 500 bpm.

“Symptoms include the heart racing, the person feeling dizzy, light headed, and chest pain. The majority of the patients who are active feel washed out and very tired,” says Dr. Dandamudi.

With the heart beating that fast, the blood is not pumping correctly. That leaves the blood pooling in the hearts chambers and can form clots, and eventually lead to a stroke.

“We always tell patients about 48 hours, so a stroke can happen that quickly,” says Dr. Dandamudi.

The cryo-ablation procedure is pretty quick. Doctors say the non-surgical procedure takes around two hours. The patient stays overnight but can leave the next morning.

“We hold it on the heart for three minutes and then we do it again for another two minutes. That prevents the electrical activity from going through the inside to the outside,” says Dr. Dandamudi.

Cryo-ablation breathes new life into a-fib patients and gives them a chance to do all of the things that they love.

“I can get out and do a lot more things and not suffer any ill effects,” said cryo-ablation patient Martin Ehresman.

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