HealthWatch: Freezing the Heart to Heal the Heart

Published 05/04 2014 11:15PM

Updated 05/08 2014 06:04PM

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Atrial fibrillation causes the heart to contract in a very fast, irregular way. It affects about three million Americans and can lead to heart failure or stroke. Now - there's a new treatment that literally freezes AFib away, when medications don't work.

When it comes to spending time in her garden, Carmen Winkler doesn't skip a beat.

"I like my flowers," Carmen told Ivanhoe.

But her love was threatened when her own heart began to flutter.

"It was so hard, my blouse was moving," Winkler said.

Her doctor diagnosed her with atrial fibrillation.

"Atrial fibrillation is a fast irregular heart rhythm from the top chamber of the heart and it affects about 15 percent of the population," Jonathan Rosman, MD, Cardiologist, Delray Medical Center, told Ivanhoe.

When medication fails, Dr. Rosman says radiofrequency ablation is used, where heat destroys the tissue causing the irregularity.

"However, what can happen is you can actually burn a hole through the heart and it can go into the esophagus and that can be fatal," Dr. Rosman said.

Now, a new option virtually eliminates that risk by freezing the tissue instead of heating it up.

"By freezing, we're no longer destroying the tissue. What we are doing is making it electrically inactive," Dr. Rosman said.

A small catheter injects a liquid coolant into the affected area, freezing the tissue and restoring the heart's rhythm.

Now, Winkler is back to admiring her butterflies just one month after her procedure.

"Once we had 80 butterflies," Winkler said.

Cryoablation has been found to be less likely damage heart tissue than radiofrequency ablation


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