Advanced heart arrhythmia treatment in Denver
At the Rocky Mountain Heart Rhythm Institute (RMHRI) at Swedish Medical Center, your cardiac care is paramount to us. Whether you have chest pain or a heart attack, our experienced team of heart health professionals ensures you receive proper and timely care for your condition.
We strive for positive outcomes and shorter lengths of stay through the use of cutting-edge and minimally invasive procedures. Our unparalleled experience makes RMHRI at Swedish the premier facility to treat atrial fibrillation (AFib).
When it comes to caring for your heart, our highly credentialed team takes an individualized approach to treating complex congenital heart diseases and arrhythmias associated with AFib.
Treatments we offer
Our RMHRI physicians have perfected advanced treatments for heart arrhythmia, including cryoballoon and radiofrequency ablation.
Cryoballoon ablation uses a minimally invasive catheter to treat the electrical triggers that cause irregular heartbeats. The balloon-tipped catheter releases liquid nitrogen to immobilize the left atrium of the heart. Cryoballoon ablation is a safe and effective way to treat irregular heartbeats in a single session because it covers a larger surface area of the pulmonary vein and has a decreased chance of injuring adjacent structures of the heart.
Radiofrequency ablation uses liquid nitrogen to prevent irregular signals from being conducted through the heart and immobilizes cells. This type of ablation is used in more advanced stages of AFib to provide more focused modifications to specific areas of the pulmonary veins. By creating lesions that isolate and prevent abnormal electrical signals from extending through the rest of the heart, the heart is able to return to its normal rhythm.
What is AFib?
Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common and undertreated irregular heart rhythm conditions in the U.S. Its diagnosis indicates that blood isn’t moving properly through the heart. This increases the risk of stroke, congestive heart failure and chronic fatigue.
Patients with AFib have significantly faster heartbeats than those without. Because AFib causes the heart to beat at a faster rhythm, blood is not completely pumped from the heart’s atria, increasing the chances of pooling and clotting.
Types of AFib
There are three types of AFib:
- Paroxysmal: Paroxysmal AFib is not constant. The heartbeat may increase and last for seconds, minutes, hours or days before returning to normal rhythm. Patients with this type of AFib usually present more symptoms due to the pulse rate increasing and slowing in short periods of time. It can be treated with medication, and in cases where additional treatment is necessary, ablation.
- Persistent: Persistent AFib does not stop naturally, but can be remedied through medications or controlled electric shock (cardioversion).
- Permanent: Permanent AFib cannot be corrected with either medication or controlled electric shock.
RMRHI is constantly at the forefront of new AFib treatment methods. One such treatment, the convergent procedure, is a minimally invasive procedure performed outside the operating room.
The convergent procedure is designed to treat a type of AFib that:
- Has not responded to previous—even multiple—ablation procedures
- Was not eligible for an ablation procedure in the past
- Is either permanent, longstanding or persistent
- Is associated with a large left atrium
This procedure is a special hybrid approach to treating advanced forms of AFib without requiring chest incisions. A scope inserted through a small incision in the abdomen is used to evaluate pulmonary vein AFib triggers for activity. Should an abnormality be found, it will be ablated through a standard catheter approach fed through the patient’s groin. A unique combination of heat and freezing energy is then used to produce impressive results for AFib types thought previously untreatable.
A palpitation is a sensation you experience in your chest, usually caused by your heart beating faster than normal or when extra heart beats occur. You may feel a flutter, “flip flop”, pounding or racing of your heart. Palpitations are extremely common and are usually benign, though some can be life-threatening.
Causes of palpitations
There are many types of irregular or abnormal heart rhythms. While most are not serious, some may require medication. They may be caused by:
- Thyroid abnormalities
- Too much caffeine
- Electrolyte abnormalities
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Too much alcohol
Notify your doctor if you are having palpitations.
Testing for palpitations
To determine the type of heart irregularity you have, you will need to undergo heart testing. Your doctor will order blood tests and an EKG. Your doctor will also want to record what your heart is doing at the time you are having symptoms. Most physicians accomplish this by having you wear a monitor for 24 hours. Other tests that may be ordered include an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of your heart, during a cardiac stress test while you are on a treadmill
If you have palpitations associated with chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, fainting or breaking out in a cold sweat, you should call 9-1-1.
Your doctor may recommend you undergo an electrophysiology (EP) study. This is a procedure where the electrical system is examined.
Arrhythmias can be further evaluated to aid in your treatment. You may have had a loss of consciousness or have palpitations, which require further investigation. You could be susceptible to a fatal rhythm; this test can help in determining if you are at risk.
EP studies are performed by placing long electrical wires through catheters into your heart. The procedure may take up to three hours. You are brought to the lab, where you are placed on a table with an X-ray machine. An intravenous line (IV) is placed in your arm, giving you sedative medicine throughout the study to make you comfortable. Electrodes and large patches are placed on your chest to monitor your heart rhythm.