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Health Beat: Tag team for tickers! Hybrid help for AFib

By Melanie Falcon, Anchor / Reporter, @Melanie_Falcon, MFalcon@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 06 2013 11:16:10 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 06 2013 04:53:42 PM CDT

Atrial fibrillation affected more than two million people in 2010, and it's expected to hit up to 12 million by 2050.

Atrial fibrillation affected more than two million people in 2010, and it's expected to hit up to 12 million by 2050.

AFib can make your heart beat out of whack and can cause some serious health problems. Now, in a new treatment, doctors are doubling up to help patients beat it when other treatments don't do the job.

For years, Michael Link struggled to work out at the gym because of chronic atrial fibrillation. 

"It limits what you can do physically," said Link.

AFib is an abnormal heart rhythm that made him feel exhausted all the time. The condition can also lead to strokes.

Surgery and medication did not help Link. 

"I was a hard case," said Link, who decided to try a new hybrid procedure called nContact.  It’s like two surgeries in one.

"It is a variant of open heart surgery. We are operating on the beating heart," said Dr. Seenu Reddy, cardiac surgeon at Centennial Medical Center.

First, Reddy inserts a catheter under the diaphragm to get to the heart. Then he burns large areas on the exterior to stop the electrical signals that can trigger AFib.  "We’re delivering energy to the heart," he said.

Next, Dr. Gregory Bashian, electro-physiologist at Centennial Medical Center, goes in with a smaller catheter to do the work that Reddy couldn’t reach.  

"Sharp shoot the gaps of certain places where his catheter can’t get to from the outside of the heart but mine can from the inside," explained Bashian.

The entire ablation procedure is done in about four hours without opening the chest.

Now, Link's heart is back to a normal rhythm, and he's back to the gym. 

"You can get old and sit around or you can get old and exercise more!" Link said. 

Candidates for nContact include patients whose chronic AFib continues while on medication or after having a catheter treatment. 

If you've had open heart procedures, like bypass surgery, Reddy said nContact is most likely not right for you.

DOWNLOAD and VIEW research summary

DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Gregory Bashian about helping people with AFib