Keeping The Beat With AFIB


ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — It’s a condition that can make your heart race and put you at risk for stroke. But for some patients, medication can’t control atrial fibrillation. See how two top surgeons are teaming up to offer a new procedure to help patients!

Tackling the heaviest weights was never an issue for Malon Wickham, until a few years ago.

Wickham said, “I was having a hard time breathing and I thought maybe that I was just getting older.”

During a routine EKG Wickham got a big surprise.

“My upper chamber was beating like 220 beats per minute,” Wickham said.

David DeLurgio, MD, Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and Dir. Of Electrophysiology at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital said, “Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia affecting patients in the developing world.” (Read Full Interview)

Medication can control most cases of a-fib. But Wickhm was suffering from persistent a-fib, meaning he was at a high risk for stroke.

Dr. DeLurgio said, “Ablation is an intervention designed to markedly decrease the chance of having recurring atrial fibrillation.”

Surgeons either burn or freeze specific areas of the heart causing a-fib. Now two surgeons at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital are teaming up to improve outcomes for patients. It’s called the convergent procedure. First, the cardiothoracic surgeon makes a small incision in the abdomen to gain access to the back of the heart. Then, the electrophysiologist enters the inside of the heart to ablate the abnormal signals.

Michael Halkos, MD, Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Emory Healthcare said, “They check the work that I’ve done using their mapping systems.”

The combined approach is proving to be successful.

Dr. DeLurgio stated, “We’re finding that at least 90 percent of the patients have near complete or complete eradication of their arrhythmias.”

Wickham had the procedure two and a half years ago. He’s back to the gym and his active life.

Wickham said, “It’s nice to have a second chance.”

Getting a-fib patients back in rhythm.

Patients stay in the hospital for 48 hours after the surgery and recover at home for at least a week. Risks include injury to the esophagus due to the heat of ablation but doctors take precautions to avoid that risk. The converge IDE clinical trial is a nationwide study still enrolling patients. For more information, please visit or

Contributors to this news report include: Janna Ross, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Videographer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Hayley Hudson, Assistant Producer; Robert Walko, Editor.


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BACKGROUND: 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. At least 2.7 million Americans are living with AFib. Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) 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 15–20 percent of people who have strokes have this heart arrhythmia. This clot risk is why patients with this condition are put on blood thinners. According to the 2009 “Out of Sync” survey: only 33 percent of AF patients think atrial fibrillation is a serious condition and less than half of AF patients believe they have an increased risk for stroke or heart-related hospitalizations or death.



TREATMENT: The atrial fibrillation treatment that is most appropriate for you will depend on how long you’ve had atrial fibrillation, how bothersome your symptoms are and the underlying cause of your atrial fibrillation. Generally, the treatment goals for atrial fibrillation are to: reset the rhythm or control the rate, prevent blood clots, and decrease the risk of strokes. Ideally, to treat atrial fibrillation, the heart rate and rhythm are reset to normal. To correct your condition, doctors may be able to reset your heart to its regular rhythm using a procedure called cardioversion. After electrical cardioversion, your doctor may prescribe anti-arrhythmic medications to help prevent future episodes of atrial fibrillation.



NEW RESEARCH: David DeLurgio, MD, Professor of Medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and Director of Electrophysiology at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital is leading a randomized control trial and said, “The idea is to compare this hybrid approach to a more standard transvenous approach. Now, what we have found preliminarily in trials proceeding this randomized trial is that the hybrid approach appears to be more effective. However, it’s very important to have very carefully controlled randomized data to answer this question scientifically and thoroughly. We hope to be able to present data including a written journal article that will show the effectiveness of this procedure.”

(Source: David DeLurgio, MD)



Mary Beth Spence, Emory Healthcare PR


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

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