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Health Matters: New procedure treats irregular heartbeat

Updated: February 12, 2012 8:05AM

As the first hospital in the area to offer a cardiac surgery program, Provena Mercy Medical Center has long been known as an innovator in cardiac health. The Aurora-based hospital is once again leading the way with a new procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, a common type of irregular heartbeat that affects millions in the United States.

Provena Mercy is the first hospital in Illinois to offer what’s known as the “Convergent Procedure,” a treatment that combines the skills of a cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist, a physician who specializes in the electrical activity of the heart.

This procedure can be a good option for patients who have persistent or long-term atrial fibrillation and have been difficult to treat with traditional procedures. Often, patients with persistent atrial fibrillation require additional procedures and cannot successfully be taken off their medications.

What is atrial fibrillation?

According to the American Heart Association, almost 3 million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation, the most common type of heart arrhythmia in which the upper chambers of the heartbeat irregularly. Risk of developing this serious medical condition increases with age and other factors such as high blood pressure.

How procedure works

During the procedure, the surgeon and electrophysiologist work as a team to create lesions, or scar tissue, around the upper chambers of the heart and pulmonary veins by using radiofrequency. This blocks the electrical stimulus that causes the rapid heartbeat.

In the first part of the procedure, the surgeon enters a tube through a small incision in the abdominal area, which snakes around the heart’s upper chamber to perform the lesions. Next, using standard catheters, the electrophysiologist completes the lesions and confirms that all the necessary areas have been blocked.

Patient benefits

This groundbreaking procedure offers many benefits to patients, including a much higher success rate than previous treatments. More patients are able to eliminate medications and return to a normal heart rhythm after this treatment. What’s more, it’s much less invasive than previous surgical treatments with shorter recovery time and shorter hospital stay for the patient.

To learn more about this procedure, visit

Courtesy of Provena Mercy Medical Center

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