Atrial Fibrillation: Pinpointing the Cause


COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ivanhoe Newswire)— Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, happens when the heart’s electrical pulses get out of sync, causing an irregular heartbeat. Doctors can treat it with ablation … destroying the tiny bit of heart tissue that’s causing the problem. Now scientists are using ex-vivo, or beating donated human hearts, to test a new way of pinpointing the source of AFib. Ivanhoe has more.

Two-point-seven million Americans live with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes the heart to pump out of sync and blood to pool and clot.

“The most dangerous side effect of atrial fibrillation is stroke because that clot can then travel to the brain,” stated Brian Hansen, MD/PhD Candidate, Wexner Medical Center, OSU.

Now, scientists are studying donated human hearts to better detect the precise point where arrythmia starts. Researchers are injecting the atria with a dye and using infrared light to see inside the heart wall.

Vadim Fedorov, PhD, Professor, Physiology and Cell Biology, OSU Medical Center explained, “You’re familiar with jellyfish. And sometime if you see jellyfish that has fluorescent light glowing, we actually can see this glowing inside of the heart. After we inject the dye.”

(Read Full Interview)

The hearts are preserved in a special fluid, and when warmed, start to beat. The researchers have multiple cameras positioned to capture four dimensional images and create computer models. The goal is to find the exact cells, or drivers, that are causing the AFib.

“If you can find that circuit, you can then break that circuit with this ablation procedure. And that should quiet down the electrical storm elsewhere in the heart,” said Hansen.

Researchers say the more precise surgeons can be during ablation, the better the results for the patients.

“We can prevent any risk of the stroke and the patients should not use any more blood thinners, which also have unfortunate side effects,” exclaimed Fedorov.

Helping get the human heart back on track.

The Ohio State research team also found that a chemical that is present in human cells and already used by physicians, called adenosine, may help pinpoint the exact source of the arrythmia. In a small pilot trial of ten patients, surgeons used adenosine to guide their ablation. Doctors say eight of the 10 patients were helped by the new method.

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

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REPORT:       MB #4928

BACKGROUND ON AFIB: Atrial fibrillation, also called AFib or AF, is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications. About 2.7 million Americans are currently living with AFib. Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly instead of beating effectively to move blood into the ventricles. If a clot breaks off, enters the bloodstream and lodges in an artery leading to the brain, a stroke results. About 15 to 20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia and this clot risk is why patients with this condition are put on blood thinners. Untreated atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and is associated with a five-fold increased risk for stroke.


DIAGNOSING AFIB: Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it’s discovered during a physical examination. Those who do have atrial fibrillation symptoms may experience signs and symptoms such as palpitations, feeling weak, fatigued, lightheaded, dizzy, and short of breath. Atrial fibrillation can also occur occasionally, be persistent and long-standing, and sometimes be permanent. A specialist may order an electrocardiogram to determine if your symptoms are related to atrial fibrillation or another heart rhythm disorder. If you are experiencing chest pain the best option is to seek emergency medical assistance immediately as chest pain could signal that you’re having a heart attack.


NEW AFIB STUDY: A clinical study of a new cardiac ablation procedure for patients with an irregular heartbeat has launched at Beaumont Health, a worldwide leader in the treatment of atrial fibrillation. Researchers at Beaumont, Royal Oak are testing whether pulsed field ablation to treat AFib improves success rate, reduces complications and decreases treatment time when compared to traditional ablation procedures. Beaumont is one of 30 sites around the world, participating in the study.  Beaumont, Royal Oak was one of six centers in the world participating in the pilot phase of the study evaluating the treatment’s safety. Five patients received pulse field ablation in December of 2020 at Beaumont, Royal Oak as part of the pilot study. Results will be reported after the study is complete. The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and St. David’s Medical Center in Austin, Texas were the other sites in the United States.





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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Vadim Fedorov, PhD, Professor, Physiology and Cell Biology

Read the entire Q&A