(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – At least 2.7 million Americans are living with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes irregular heartbeats, doubling the chances of heart-related death and increasing stroke risk fivefold. For those with chronic atrial fibrillation, doctors often perform an ablation, which creates small scars on the heart to eliminate the source of rhythm disruption. The procedure is not without risk, however, and doctors at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are hoping to drastically reduce those risks, performing the first-ever heart ablation in the U.S. using a new device they believe will make this procedure safer and more effective while also reducing recovery time.
“Because traditional ablations use heat or cold to create scar tissue, the biggest risk is collateral damage to the surrounding area, such as the esophagus or heart tissue,” said Dr. John Hummel, director of electrophysiology research at Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital. “But this new device is much more precise and does not need to come in direct contact with the heart wall, so we expect it will eliminate that risk.”
Rather than heat or cold, the device delivers a field of energy in the form of small electrical pulses that target specific cells.
“It essentially causes the cells that are causing the problem to leak and cease electrical conduction without actually altering the tissue in the way that burning or freezing tissue would,” said Hummel, who performed the first procedure on a patient in the United States using Medtronic’s PulseSelect PFA System. “And because there is no heat signature with the delivery, it allows us to ablate the tissue until we’re satisfied that there’s not going to be recurrent electrical activity.”
The clinical trial will continue to expand to more patients to test the safety and long-term effectiveness of the pulsed electricity method of ablation. If successful, experts hope it will become the standard tool to help resolve this dangerous heart condition for millions of people.