UMCG is the first treatment center in the Benelux region to apply a revolutionary new technology to treat atrial fibrillation, a common heart rhythm disorder. With the help of an electric field, small scars are made in the heart tissue where the arrhythmia originates so that unwanted stimuli are blocked from this site. The new method is fast, effective and gives much less chance of complications.
Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of arrhythmias. About 170,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from it. The disorder can cause heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, or dizziness. A common treatment is to use heating (radio-frequency energy) or freezing (cryoablation) to create scar tissue near the pulmonary veins to stop the heart’s unwanted electrical impulses. This is done with the help of a catheter that is brought into the heart through the groin. Every year, 6000 patients are treated with this method in the Netherlands.
“One drawback of heat or cold therapy is that complications can arise due to damage to surrounding tissues or nerves,” says Yuri Blau, M.D., chief of clinical electrophysiology at UMCG. This can, for example, lead to diaphragm failure, making people temporarily short of breath. This occurs in about 2 out of every 100 patients. Another frightening, but rare, complication is esophageal damage.”
The new treatment method uses a technology in which cells that cause heart rhythm disturbances are switched off by an electric field. It is a very precise treatment method in which nerve cells and other tissues are not damaged. So the risks of complications are lower. This new technique, pulsed field ablation, is used in about 30 centers worldwide and has been shown to be effective: one year after the procedure, most patients no longer have any symptoms of atrial fibrillation.
On 1 and 2 July, Blau and fellow cardiologist Hessel Groenefeld were the first to treat 5 patients in the Benelux region with pulsed field ablation using a FARAWAVE® catheter from FARAPULSE®. Blau: “The treatment can be done very quickly, within an hour, patients went home the same day and did not have any problems. This way we can help many patients in a safe way in the future. An important gain, because there are many patients with atrial fibrillation and a waiting list Long. We see this new technology as truly groundbreaking.”
“Coffee buff. Twitter fanatic. Tv practitioner. Social media advocate. Pop culture ninja.”