Atrial Fibrillation: image via Texas Arrhythmia Institute New findings by
researchers from the Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in
Murray, Utah, reveal that a treatment of the most common heart rhythm
disorder, affecting more than two million Americans, significantly
reduces the risk of stroke, mortality, Alzheimer's disease, and other
forms of dementia.
Three to five percent of people over 65 have atrial
fibrillation. That common heart rhythm disorder occurs when the atria
(the two upper chambers of the heart) are not contracting in unison.
It is characterized by a fluttering, which can be heard through a
stethoscope, and possibly, be felt in the pulse, but an EKG would have to confirm it.
Atrial fibrillation may prevent blood from being pumped completely out of
the atria, which may cause the blood to pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria
leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke
results. This is the most feared result of atrial fibrillation.
To prevent this from happening, the most common treatment for atrial fibrillation is cardiac ablation,
which is kind of like removing rust from a pipe. Generally
a non-invasive procedure, cardiac ablation involves inserting catheters through
narrow entry points in the groin or neck and directing the catheters to
the heart by images obtained from a fluoroscope. Once in the right
location, the catheter's electrodes send back a variety of electrical
measurements to the cardiac arrhythmia specialist.
Cardiac Electrophysiology Equipment, Mount Auburn Hospital: ©Mount Auburn Hospital
The fluoroscope pinpoints where the arrhythmia is occurring and the
specialist will then use the electrodes to destroy tissue which is
causing the arrhythmia. The specialist generally uses radiofrequency
energy, thereby either cauterizing the tissue to burn it, or cryoablation to freeze the
According to the studies reported today, patients with atrial fibrillation treated with catheter
ablation are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease or other forms
of dementia, and have a significantly reduced risk of stroke and death
compared to atrial fibrillation patients who are not treated with ablation.
Texas Arrhythmia Institute, Heart Rhythm Society, Press release