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Sharon Delugach is one of more than two million Americans who have atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation is the most common and one of the most undertreated heart rhythm disorders in the country. It is important to treat atrial fibrillation because it can lead to a stroke. Another benefit of treating atrial fibrillation is it can improve a patient’s quality of life.
In Delugach’s case, she thought she was having panic attacks. She felt anxious and stressed out. She describes having a heavy, tight feeling in her chest. It turns out she wasn’t experiencing a panic attack, but rather her heart wasn’t beating correctly.
“Patients who have atrial fibrillation can often feel their heart race and they can feel short of breath,” explained James Litzow, M.D., an electrophysiologist with Sutherland Cardiology Clinic. “Some people feel dizzy or light headed and other people will feel they can’t do what they used to be able to do.”
Cryoablation is offered at Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital. The minimally invasive procedure is performed in the catheterization lab. A catheter is inserted through a vein in the leg and threaded up to the heart. Once the catheter is positioned in the heart it freezes areas around the pulmonary veins where the electrical impulses originate that cause a rapid and uneven heartbeat.
The procedure only requires an overnight stay in the hospital before patients can return home.
“I woke up from the anesthesia feeling really good,” said Delugach. “It was like a weight had been lifted off of my chest.”
Delugach works in a new area and her co-workers describe her as being a new person. Delugach has also noticed a big difference. She doesn’t feel anxious any more. She can work in the yard and clean the house without stopping.
“I never realized my quality of life had decreased until after my heart was fixed,” said Delugach.