AFib: Freezing It Away First


CLEVELAND, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Every year atrial fibrillation, known as AFib, or AF, contributes to the deaths of about 158,000 Americans. It’s a condition where the heartbeat is irregular, and blood doesn’t flow well through the heart chambers. Medication has traditionally been the first treatment doctors recommend, but the expanded use of a cold ablation procedure is increasing options.

Patients with atrial fibrillation may have no symptoms at all, some may feel a fluttering in their chest, or be out of breath and fatigued. Over time, the episodes can be more frequent, and last longer.

“The biggest issue though, is that in the atrium, because it’s really not pumping it’s just quivering, blood can stagnate and cause a clot, and that can cause a stroke,” Oussama Wazni, MD, an electrophysiologist at Cleveland Clinic, told Ivanhoe.

(Read Full Interview)

In a recent clinical trial, doctors studied the use of a technique called cryoablation as a first line treatment before medication. During the procedure, doctors used a catheter with a balloon to reach the upper left chamber of the heart, and then used cold energy to ablate cells and block abnormal electrical signals causing the arrythmia.

“Close to 75 percent of those who had the ablation maintained sinus rhythm. And they felt so much better for their quality of life was much better versus only 45 percent in the drug arm,” Dr. Wazni,  shared.

As a result, the FDA expanded the use of the Artic Front cryoablation system to treat patients with recurrent AFib.

“We can offer them an ablation sooner than later, and they won’t have to deal with the medications and their side effects, and also, the risk of progression of atrial fibrillation,” Dr. Wazni noted.

Lowering the risk of other health complications.

The system was tested as a first line treatment in three separate trials, two in the U.S. and one in Latin America, Europe and Australia. The results of all three trials supported the use of cryoablation for patients who have had a sudden increase or recurrent AFib.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4937

BACKGROUND: Atrial fibrillation, AFib, is a quivering or irregular heartbeat. These irregular heartbeats can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. Around 2.7 million Americans are living with this disease. With AFib, the upper chambers of the heartbeat irregularly instead of effectively to move blood into the ventricles. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, it can result in a stroke. About 15 to 20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia.  If untreated, it can double the risk of heart-related deaths and is associated with a 5-fold increased risk for stroke.


CRYOABLATION AND AFIB: Cryoablation is a procedure used to restore normal heart rhythm by disabling heart cells that create an irregular heartbeat. This minimally invasive procedure uses a thin flexible tube, called a balloon catheter, to locate and freeze the heart tissue that triggers the irregular heartbeat. Using cold, rather than heat, to disable damaged tissue has been found to reduce the chances of impacting healthy heart tissue and surrounding structures. Recent studies have found cryoablation to be significantly more effective than medication, and patients generally experience less pain than with radiofrequency ablation.


NEW AFIB DEVICE: Cardiologists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center were the first in the United States to perform a procedure testing a new type of ablation technology on patients suffering from AFib. The global clinical trial is assessing pulsed field ablation (PFA) technology. Developed by Medtronic, the PulseSelect PFA System uses pulsed electric fields to interrupt pathways and AFib triggers in the heart. By doing this, it can help the heart restore its regular rhythm. This technology is non-thermal (meaning there is no heat or extreme cold) and can efficiently isolate the pulmonary veins, which are a major source of triggers of the arrhythmia. “This new technology is potentially everything we’ve hoped for in catheter ablation. It’s easier to use, more efficient and will be better for patients because there’s less risk of damage to surrounding tissue and a shorter recovery time. It also may eliminate the need for overnight hospital stays,” said Dr. John Hummel, an electrophysiologist at Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital.




If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Oussama Wazni, MD, Electrophysiologist

Read the entire Q&A