First Atrial Fibrillation Patient Treated With Innovative Ablation Procedure


September 19, 2012

September 19, 2012 — This past week, surgeons and cardiologists at Sentara Heart Hospital were the first in the world to begin performing surgeries in the Dual Epicardial Endocardial Persistent Atrial Fibrillation (AF) Study (Staged DEEP) feasibility trial. Cardiothoracic surgeon collaborator Jonathan Philpott, M.D., director of the Sentara Atrial Fibrillation Surgery Program, and cardiac electrophysiologist collaborator Ian Woollett, M.D., of Cardiovascular Associates, performed the first procedure.

The Staged DEEP trial is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved pilot study sponsored by cardiac device manufacturer AtriCure Inc. The study is designed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a combined procedure whereby the surgeon creates lines of block on the outside of the heart, working through tiny chest incisions. During the same hospital stay, an electrophysiologist tests the surgical lines and then completes additional ablation lines using tiny catheters within the heart. There are currently no FDA-approved devices for the minimally invasive surgical (MIS) or endocardial treatment of persistent forms of AF, and current options yield very limited success.

"We believe that this staged hybrid procedure has the potential to represent an important advancement in the treatment of persistent forms of AF," said Robert Bernstein, M.D., an electrophysiologist in Norfolk, Va., and one of four electrophysiologists at Sentara collaborating in the trial. "Our initial experience with this hybrid procedure suggests that it represents a highly promising AF treatment."

AF is the most common irregular heartbeat affecting more than 2 million people in the United States. It is characterized by heart palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath. Persistent forms of AF comprise roughly half of the AF patient population, and this number is expected to increase significantly due to the progressive nature of the disease and the aging population.

Said Philpott: “Our preliminary experience with this procedure is very encouraging. The partnership between the electrophysiologist and the cardiac surgeon in the hybrid procedure leverages the skills and technologies of each specialist, providing patients with the most comprehensive ablation and mapping procedure available.”

“Staging these procedures gives the cardiac surgeon and the electrophysiologist the flexibility to work within their own familiar environments, making each team more efficient and effective,” added Woollett

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