Doc Talk | Technology helping patients with atrial fibrillation


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    Heart Health Awareness month may wrap up today, but the awareness lives on morning.

    This week's Doc Talk focuses on how technology is making great strides in helping patients with atrial fibrillation.

    Also known as Afib, which is more common than one may think. Safwat Gassis is a Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Geisinger Holy Spirit.

    "Atrial fibrillation is characterized typically by a very rapid and irregular heartbeats," Dr. Gassis said. "When there is any abnormality of the hearts electrical system, the heart’s pumping function becomes compromised and leads to the symptoms."

    Arrhythmia is the main symptom characterized by periods of irregular heartbeats, which tend to be intermittent.

    "Which means the arrhythmia comes and goes, it may last from a few minutes to a few hours at a time," Dr. Gassis said.

    Then overtime the arrhythmias become more persistent which means Afib is present. As for causes or risk factors....

    “The most common ones are having high blood pressure, especially uncorrected for many years, diabetes, being overweight and having sleep apnea," Dr. Gassis said.

    Over the years Afib cases have been on the rise because of a larger aging population.

    Treatments do vary from patient to patient, and with greater medical technology there is a greater level of hope for those who have this condition.

    "Some people may do very well with medication other may require procedures, such as cardio-version, where we use an electrical current to restore the normal rhythm," Dr. Gassis said.

    When these options are not working as well, there is another high-tech technique.

    "We use ablation techniques, catheter ablation, where we insert catheters from the vein up the leg and insert the catheters into the heart," Dr. Gassis said.

    Which gives Dr. Gassis the ability to freeze the area that is the trigger of atrial fibrillation. Technology opening up new arteries to saving lives.

    "The last several years we've seen a lot of technology being used to help us and guide us to be able to reach the areas of the heart that are triggering the atrial fibrillation," Dr. Gassis said.

    Meaning greater success rates for a growing condition.

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