Atrial fibrillation (AFIB) affects three million Americans and is a leading cause of stroke. It also is known for palpitations and, in the case of many, shortness of breath.
“I could only go up three stairs and then I’d have to sit down. Then three more stairs and I’d have to sit down,” says Jacquie Crawford, 70, of St. Charles. “I just couldn’t go any further.”
Medications are typically the first option for AFIB. However, for a patient like Crawford, whose AFIB couldn’t be controlled by drugs, a surgical procedure invented at the former Barnes Hospital in 1987 called Cox-Maze was able to cure her AFIB.
The procedure is called Maze because surgeons create “barriers” in the heart to block abnormal electrical signals by creating what looks like a maze. While surgeon James Cox, MD, originally developed the procedure, it has been taken to the next level by current chief of cardiac surgery Ralph Damiano, MD. Cox-Maze has since been tweaked to make it less invasive.
“It’s a much easier operation for a patient to undergo, a much quicker recovery and we’ve done all this with still maintaining excellent cure rates,” says Dr. Damiano.
The other option is catheter ablation. A non-surgical option advanced by Washington University electrophysiologist Mitch Faddis, MD.
“The goal is to create scar tissue in a precise way that acts like a corral for the electrical activity and prevents the atrial fibrillation from beginning,” he says.
Dr. Faddis and his colleagues helped develop use of the Stereotaxis system to perform catheter ablation. It uses three dimensional mapping and magnetic guidance to treat AFIB with radiofrequency energy. Patients who receive catheter ablation are usually discharged within 48 hours.
“The technology has made dramatic impacts to approach this kind of a problem,” says Dr. Faddis.
These advancements in both Cox-Maze surgery and catheter ablation procedures have been adopted internationally and have allowed more patient to have their AFIB cured. Drs. Damiano and Faddis will host a free event about these procedures called “And The Beat Goes On” Thursday, April 29, 6:30 p.m. – 9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn South County, 6921 S. Lindbergh Blvd.
“I have started to tap dance, and it has been a marvelous experience,” says Crawford. “I have my life back. It’s like a miracle.”
For more information about Cox-Maze or to register for the April 29 event, visit http://www.barnesjewish.org/cardio/atrial-fibrillation or call 866-TOP-DOCS.