New non-surgical procedure can cure irregular heart rhythm

A new procedure can now treat esophageal perforations (holes in the esophagus) when caught early, therefore greatly reducing mortality rates.

These holes in the esophagus can occur when undergoing catheter ablation procedure to correct an irregular heart rhythm (known as an atrial fibrillation).

One in four people age 40 will develop atrial fibrillation during their life, and up to 25% of all strokes in the U.S. are due to atrial fibrillation. As medications are often not effective in controlling the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, physicians now perform catheter ablation procedures at an ever increasing rate, which may potentially cure atrial fibrillation.

One of the most feared complications of this procedure is an esophageal perforation. By placing a tube (also known as a stent) in the esophagus, the perforation can heal itself without surgery. After the esophagus has healed the stent is removed. Temporary esophageal stenting poses little threat to the patient and represents an alternative to surgery to correct this problem.

“This study is important in that the number of potentially curative atrial fibrillation procedures is increasing at a dramatic pace, and if this life-threatening complication of an esophageal perforation is diagnosed early it may be treated without surgery via a stenting approach,” says John D. Day, MD.

In the future, this procedure will enable doctors to save lives and quicken the recovery process for patients by avoiding surgery to reconstruct the esophagus.

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