Turning 70 certainly didn’t slow Dick’s pace of living. After a long, successful career in the high tech industry, he got his real estate license a few years ago. Passions include competitive tennis in the USTA Super Senior circuit, golfing, and biking. He and his wife Jill love to travel and he still finds time for visits to his children and grandchildren scattered across the country.
Accustomed to a high level of activity, Dick was surprised when he couldn’t finish his tennis match one day. “I felt like I just ran out of gas on the court,” Dick recalled, “but I attributed the extreme fatigue to the long tournament, the heat, wine, anything but a heart problem.” Dick reviewed the instances with his personal physician, who ordered various tests including an angiogram, which came back with an “all clear” report. Since these episodes occurred at random times, atrial fibrillation (AF or Afib) was not picked up on the tests.
It wasn't until Dick was being readied for arthroscopic knee surgery that an attending physician picked up the AF and told him they could not proceed with the operation. He was quickly referred to a cardiologist who confirmed the diagnosis and immediately started him on medications to control the AF along with a blood thinning regimen. However, AF would break through the medicine at times. During an episode, Dick felt unsteady, light-headed, and unable to do anything productive. The inconsistent, pounding heartbeats came on intermittently and lasted anywhere from a few minutes to 36 hours, and would stop suddenly on its own.
“Although the medication reduced the number of episodes, the side effects interfered with my life,” said Dick. “I was on blood thinners to prevent a stroke which meant that I had to have my blood checked regularly. Plus my doctor advised no hard physical activity which I loved.” The AF medications also left Dick feeling lethargic and less alert.
As the months went on, Dick’s AF worsened. It lasted longer and became more debilitating, despite changing medications and dosage levels. It was also very unpredictable, jeopardizing his ability to run his real estate business. Dick felt he needed a more permanent solution. He was aware of the RF ablation process, but his research picked up a new approach called cryoablation. He made contact with a cardiologist who discussed catheter ablation, specifically the Arctic Front® Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter, as a treatment for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.
Catheter ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure in which energy terminates (ablates) the abnormal electrical pathways in the heart tissue that are causing Afib. The Arctic Front cryoablation catheter is a flexible thin tube that is maneuvered through a vessel into the left atrium. Once positioned in the heart, the balloon portion of the catheter is filled with a coolant which applies subzero temperatures to the abnormal pathways and restores normal electrical conduction.
“Fast forward to after the cryoablation procedure,” chuckled Dick. “I felt my heart ran like a finely tuned Chevy 350 V8, with a new distributor, new wires, and platinum plugs. There was an immediate improvement in how I felt.” Dick had a short stint of AF a few weeks after his catheter ablation but nothing since. “Getting rid of the AF is more than just being off meds and getting activity back,” emphasized Dick. “It’s regaining my total being –freedom of life and lifestyle.”
This story reflects one person's experience. Not every person will receive the same results. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options.