Susan Paluzzi and her husband have lived in Rockford most of their lives. But for the past ten years, after keeping busy with children and now grandchildren, Susan was a bit off beat, literally. The cause was atrial fibrillation, a common form of arrhythmia in her heart, giving her irregular heart beats.
"My heart would go out of rhythm quite often, so I went to Dr. Mao quite a few times, and then we finally thought that I should do this procedure, that I should have this done," Paluzzi said.
Doctors at SwedishAmerican's Heart Hospital were there to help, with a new procedure known as Cryoablation, giving patients a more direct approach at tackling pulmonary vein issues in the heart. Using a catheter, doctors place a balloon around damaged areas in the heart, for a more accurate treatment.
"So with the cryo balloon, basically we do the same thing where we do a puncture in the heart to get to the left side of the heart, and we basically blow up the balloon inside the left side of the heart, snug up the balloon against the opening of the pulmonary vein and basically inject liquid nitrous oxide into the balloon," Dr. Justin Mao, an electrophysiologist at SwedishAmerican Hospital explains.
Dr. Justin Mao was one of the first doctors to perform the Cryoablation surgery in Illinois. After the FDA approved the procedure in 2010, Susan was one of his first patients.
"I was very scared," Paluzzi said. "I was very scared, and Dr. Mao and I talked about this for about a year before I actually decided to go through with the procedure and so, I'm glad I did. It turned out very nicely for me, and I've had no problems."
During the surgery, technicians and doctors watch the frequencies and rhythms of the heart, at intervals, looking for patterns.
Freezing the veins pin points damaged spots.
"The idea is that the lesions that you create with the balloons will create a permanent lesion around the pulmonary vein so that impulses from the pulmonary vein can't get to the rest of the heart," Dr. Mao says.
So far, Susan has seen good results. With check ups about every 3 months for the next year, she'll hope for a long term recovery.
"I've had no irregular heart beats for oh four months now, and it's done very well for me," Paluzzi says.
Dr. Mao says the surgery has a 70% success rate right now. With most a-fib cases, patients often have to have another surgery in the future. They hope with a growing number of cases, the success rate will increase.
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