Recent studies into the impact of cardiac procedures for people with irregular heartbeats, or atrial fibrillation (AF), have proven there’ve been huge advances in success and survival in the last few years, says Cabrini Cardiologist, Professor Peter Kistler.
“It takes years for studies to prove what we think is happening, and we now know from two large studies that people with irregular heartbeat and heart failure who have an ablation have improved symptoms, heart function and survival,” he says.
A major study from the US lasting almost a decade is the latest to prove that an ablation does have an impact on quality of life and longevity. His own study in 2017 showed the improved heart function with ablation.
Professor Kistler is speaking at Cabrini’s ‘Mending Hearts’ conference on Saturday May 5 as part of Heart Week. He’s Head of Clinical Electrophysiology Research at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, and Head of Electrophysiology at The Alfred Hospital.
“The conference at Cabrini will be updating general practitioners and paramedics on the big steps we’re making in treatment: the role of the ablation, where it fits into treatment, and the recent advances in technology which have led to improvements in outcome and safety,” he said. “And we have some data that it may lead people with heart failure to live longer.”
“The question of whether there’s a cure for AF is always being asked,” Professor Kistler says. “But AF is a more complex condition which may have a range of underlying causes. These may include lifestyle choices like alcohol and being overweight, or ageing and high blood pressure. Atrial fibrillation involves the upper part of the heart beating irregularly, throwing out the rhythm of the whole organ and making it less efficient. You end up breathless or dizzy as a result.”
The treatment for irregular heartbeat, expressed simply, is to disrupt the electrical circuitry by resetting it, destroying the area which is not working; or using medication. The surgical route known as ablation involves inserting a catheter through the skin. Professor Kistler says these days that means a hole the size of a drinking straw, no stitches, and soon after the procedure, patients are walking around.
One example of the newest technology, which is in use at Cabrini, is advanced mapping.
“Advanced mapping allows people to have a CT scan of their heart to allow an individualised approach to ablation to correct their heart rhythm problem. The new technology is an ultrasound sensor on the end of these wires which may make the ablation procedure safer and possibly more effective.
“We can improve quality of life and often reduce medication with these treatments,” Professor Kistler says.
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