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Microwave Technology Steadies Irregular Heartbeat

Minimally invasive surgery blocks atrial fibrillation

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 24, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new kind of minimally invasive heart surgery based on microwave technology helps control atrial fibrillation, a dangerous heart condition, according to a researcher at Duke University Medical Center.

Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical impulses in the heart's upper chambers that cause the heart to beat fast and irregularly. This irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) can lead to the formation of blood clots, which increase the risk of stroke.

The new procedure, called thorascopic ablation, uses microwave energy to create scars on the heart. For this procedure, surgeons only need to make two small incisions in the patient's chest.

"The scars protect the heart from the abnormal impulses -- essentially disconnecting those defective electrical switches from the rest of the heart," Duke heart surgeon Dr. Sinan Simsir said in a prepared statement.

Thorascopic ablation was first performed at the University of Massachusetts in January 2003. So far, about 100 of these surgeries have been conducted. Simsir performed Duke's first thorascopic ablation surgery in July 2004.

The procedure has successfully blocked atrial fibrillation in 80 percent of patients who've had no success with medications meant to reduce their heart rate, or correct arrhythmias.

Atrial fibrillation affects more than 2.2 million people in the United States.

More information

The American Heart Association has more about atrial fibrillation.

SOURCE: Duke University news release, Nov. 18, 2004
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