In order to pump blood through your body effectively, a heart must beat with a strong and consistent rhythm. When the heart loses its consistent rhythm, this is known as an ‘arrhythmia’. Atrial fibrillation – also known as “AFib” or “AF”—is a type of arrhythmia, which happens when the heart’s electrical rhythm is disrupted in such a way that it beats very quickly and chaotically. This prevents blood from being pumped efficiently, which can lead to stroke, weakness, breathlessness, fainting, and a significant reduction in one’s quality of life.
Atrial fibrillation is a common and growing problem, affecting over 2.7 million people in the United States.1 Fortunately, many successful methods for treating AFib have been developed, and are commonly used to help patients.
There are various options doctors use to treat AFib, with the goal of restoring a normal heart rhythm, and/or controlling its rate. The approach taken depends on many factors, including the type and severity of arrhythmia, prior treatments, and other medical conditions. Treatments can include lifestyle changes, medications to slow the heart, control its rhythm, or reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke, as well as catheter-based ablation procedures and surgery.
When lifestyle changes and medication are not effective enough to address AFib, ablation is one common next step. During this minimally-invasive procedure, a catheter is inserted through a vein in the leg and advanced into the heart, where energy is used to block abnormal electrical pathways by creating lines of scar tissue. This “ablation” is often an effective and low-impact way to restore a normal heart rhythm. Recovery is usually rapid and the procedure may be done with either sedation or under anesthesia.
Atrial fibrillation usually begins in one or more of the pulmonary veins, the vessels that carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the left atrium of the heart. In this case, physicians perform a pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) procedure to create areas of scar tissue around the pulmonary veins, where each connects to the left atrium. This scar tissue serves to block the electrical signals causing arrhythmia, thereby electrically isolating the pulmonary veins from the atrium, and allowing the heart to beat with a normal rhythm once again.
The HeartLight System has been designed for physicians to perform PVI procedures with accuracy, precision, and confidence. To provide physicians with an additional layer of insight about each procedure, our innovative HeartLight catheter is equipped with a miniature video camera and “headlight” to deliver a direct, live-action view of the ablation site.
The HeartLight System also enables physicians to customize the amount of energy used for their ablations, based upon patients’ specific needs. And HeartLight utilizes a unique balloon design to adapt to your heart’s specific anatomy.
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This is a generalized description of atrial fibrillation and treatment options. Please be sure to consult your physician about your specific situation and needs.
1. Benjamin EJ, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics – 2018 Update. Circulation. 2018;137:e67-e492.