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Your Healthy Family: NCH Clinical Trial on treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Posted at 8:19 AM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-15 12:55:46-04

NAPLES, Fla. — There are 16 clinical trials happening within the NCH Heart Institute. One of those clinical trials is on what one doctor there is calling a safer, more effective way to treat people with heart rhythm issues.

Atrial Fibrillation, or A-Fib, is an irregular heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots and stroke.

“The heart, instead of beating in a normal rhythm, every cell starts beating on its own, so it just starts quivering," Dr. Dinesh Sharma, an Electrophysiologist with the NCH Heart Institute, said.

He said this can form blood clots in the heart and increase the risk of stroke.

“Around 20 to 30 percent of strokes happen because of Atrial Fibrillation, he said.

Dr. Sharma said blood thinners can reduce stroke risk by 70 percent, but not all patients can't take them. Another treatment option is called Catheter Ablation.

“We go to the groin, into the heart, and we cauterize the tissue in the heart which we think is unstable or causing the arrhythmia," Dr. Sharma said.

He said using heat or cold, they create scar tissue around the veins.

"And this scar tissue acts as an electrical fence," Dr. Sharma said.

He said it blocks abnormal electrical signals and brings the heart back to regular rhythm. It's 80 percent effective, but has some risks because heat or cold isn't just specific to the heart.

"Fortunately, the risk is less than one percent. But there's always that risk. Especially, we worry about the esophagus because it's right behind the heart," he said.

The NCH Heart Institute is one of 30 sites in the world, running a clinical trial on Pulsed Field Ablations.

"The preliminary data has shown that is very promising." Dr. Sharma said. “The new technology, or clinical trial which we are studying, is to use a non-thermal source of energy, which could be very cardiac selective or it's heart selective. So we are not too much concerned about the organs around the heart."

Dr. Sharma said it's more effective and efficient.

"We can do the ablations in less than half the time, and we now have a much faster recovery, and it's a lot safer," he said.

Pulsed Field Ablation creates scar tissue in the heart, which acts as an electrical fence to block abnormal heart signals and bring the heart back to regular rhythm. Dr. Sharma said he feels this is the future of how ablations will be performed.