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An arrhythmia is a condition where the heart beat has become irregular and beats either too fast or too slow. One of the most common types of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation.
Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart doesn’t pump the blood into the ventricles, or lower chambers of the heart. As a result, too much blood remains in the upper chambers of the heart, or atria.
The condition becomes more common with age and increases the risk of stroke and may lead to heart failure. Other symptoms include conditions such as dizziness, fainting, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, or PAF, is an early form of atrial fibrillation. PAF occurs when a person suffers two or more episodes of atrial fibrillation in a week that isn’t related to a reversible cause, such as pulmonary disease, surgery, or hyperthyroidism.
Most instances of PAF eventually stop on their own. However, PAF is generally unresponsive to medication, which leaves cardiac patients with atrial fibrillation few treatment options.
In January, 2012, the FDA approved the use of the THERMOCOOL®SF Catheter for the treatment of PAF. The THERMOCOOL®SF Catheter uses heat energy, or radio waves, to treat the source of the arrhythmia and permanently block the electrical impulses in the heart that are causing the arrhythmia to occur.
The procedure is conducted in an outpatient setting and lasts between two and four hours. During the procedure, an electrophysiologist creates a 3-D map of the heart using the visualization capability of the CARTO®3 3D Mapping & Ablation System.
The purpose of the 3-D map is to identify the source of the irregular electrical impulses in the heart. Once the source is identified, the electrophysiologist guides the catheter to the source of abnormal activity.
Radio waves, which generate heat, are then delivered directly to the affected area. As a result, the heart tissue in the targeted area is altered. Because the source of the problem is treated, patients can expect a reduction in PAF episodes, severity of symptoms, and in some cases, a return to a normal heart rhythm is permanent.