More about atrial fibrillation

Posted on 6 August 2014

A non-invasive ablative procedure can now successfully treat dangerous atrial fibrillation (AF). Pioneering cardiologist Dr Razeen Gopal explains.

What causes AF?
High blood pressure, which causes thickening of the heart muscle and enlargement of the heart chambers; the narrowing of the coronary arteries resulting in heart attacks; rheumatic valvular heart disease; and diseases of the lining of the heart can cause AF. Other triggers include thyroid disease, electrolyte abnormalities and alcohol binging. There’s also a strong association with obstructive sleep apnoea, typically characterised by snoring and holding your breath while asleep.

Why is AF a dangerous condition?
AF can cause blood pooling in the heart, as well as blood clotting which could result in heart failure or stroke.

When was the first procedure using this technology performed in South Africa?
In December 2012.

Why are we only hearing about it now?
AF ablative therapy isn’t a universal cure and the recurrence rate is high. ‘Time is the critical arbiter in determining the success of the procedure, which in this case, as is now well known, and the procedure has proved to be a resounding success,’ explains Dr Gopal.

Can AF ablation prevent stroke?
AF ablation alone cannot prevent stroke in high-risk patients. Often these patients require life-long blood thinning medications regardless of the success of the AF ablation.

What are potential complications?
As with any other medical intervention there may be complications and AF ablation and such complications could be potentially life threatening. However, Dr Gopal emphasises in the hundreds of such procedures done so far at Mediclinic Panorama there has been no major complication or fatality to date.

Can the procedure be repeated?
Dr Gopal says repeat procedures in AF ablation is the rule rather than the exception, and patients should to be made aware of this beforehand. ‘Often, however, the repeat procedure is shorter and quicker and not as extensive, as it commonly involves just a touch-up.’

Visit the Cape Town AF Centre for more information.

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The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

Published in Cardiology

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