New heart surgery without opening chest

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Thoracic surgeon Daniel Bethencourt, MD, one of the few cardiac surgeons to cure atrial fibrillation (rapid, irregular heartbeat) without opening the patient's chest, will perform endoscopic microwave ablation to treat atrial fibrillation in a 59-year-old man at Long Beach Memorial on Wednesday, June 30.

Patient Joel Ellis, Laguna Beach, experiences irregular heartbeats 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. He is among the 2 million Americans suffering from the most common cardiac arrhythmia known as atrial fibrillation. Until recently, the only treatments for atrial fibrillation have been restoration of the heart's normal rhythm by medicine or electrical treatments, which can control but not cure, or open heart surgery. Having undergone cardioversion by electrical shocks twice with no success, Ellis was referred to Dr. Bethencourt by his cardiologist, Rex Winters, MD. Ellis has high hopes that the microwave ablation procedure will be a permanent cure. "Microwave ablation is a much faster and safer method of surgery for treating atrial fibrillation," says Dr. Bethencourt. "For many patients, a closed chest beating heart procedure can be done through small ports which entail making 6 small incisions in the patient's chest."

Assisted by a tiny camera, a flexible microwave ablation catheter is placed on the beating heart to perform the ablation. According to Dr. Bethencourt, the procedure takes approximately two to three hours, and the patient may be discharged within 48 hours, and can typically resume an active lifestyle within a few days. He says the procedure is ideal for patients with recent onset, or intermittent atrial fibrillation, but it can be applied to patients with chronic atrial fibrillation as well.

Long Beach Memorial Medical Center has been one of the first hospitals in California to embrace microwave energy as a cure for atrial fibrillation. It is also one of the first hospitals in the world to perform microwave ablation to cure atrial fibrillation. The success rates match those achieved with the more complex "cut-and-sew" maze procedure, and microwave ablation is the only technique that can be used both inside the heart during valve surgery or by itself.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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