Tyler, Texas (June 16, 2022) — Physicians from UT Health East Texas and Tyler Cardiovascular Consultants (CVC) successfully completed the first full convergent procedure in East Texas. The minimally invasive procedure is a team effort between a cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist (EP) to treat patients with chronic atrial fibrillation (Afib), a condition where the heart has an inconsistent electrical rhythm resulting in an irregular heartbeat.
Symptoms of Afib include a racing heart, shortness of breath, lightheadedness or dizziness. While medication or catheter ablation can successfully treat Afib, some patients’ symptoms return or persist. Now, with the convergent procedure, these patients are offered another treatment option.
“UT Health East Texas is proud to be the first in the community offer the convergent procedure,” said UT Health East Texas Regional Director of Cardiology Donna Bowers. “It is a procedure that is new to UT Health East Texas, and we are especially excited because it brings a new treatment option to those who previously didn’t have many other local options.”
The convergent procedure combines two types of ablation, catheter and surgical, to provide a more thorough treatment without performing open-heart surgery. The success rates for correcting persistent Afib in patients who undergo both stages is being reported as 75 to 85 percent and offers these patients another treatment option locally.
“When patients experience symptoms of Afib long-term, or for more than a year, even after undergoing treatment, they’re considered very difficult to treat. For the most part they were left alone,” said Raul Torres, MD, cardiologist and EP at Tyler CVC. “[The convergent] approach provides an alternative treatment to keep these patients in normal rhythm.”
This procedure is performed in two stages. During the first stage, the patient is admitted to the hospital and undergoes the surgical portion of the procedure. Here the cardiac surgeon places a small incision just beneath the breast bone to insert a camera and an ablation catheter behind the heart. This gives the cardiac surgeon the capability to ablate areas of the heart that previously were unreachable without opening the chest cavity. The patient generally remains in the hospital for two to three days for recovery.
“By being able to reach behind the heart we are able to provide a more complete ablation for the patient. Often this means a more successful surgery with better long-term effects for the patient,” said Andrea Cooley, DO, cardiothoracic surgeon at UT Health East Texas.
The second stage of the procedure is performed about six weeks later on an outpatient basis. Here the EP makes a small incision near the patient’s groin, and performs traditional catheter ablation to minimize electrical activity that may cause abnormal heart rhythm. Patients typically go home the same day.
“The surgical option helps complement the interventional cardiac electrophysiology aspect,” said Ashish Gangasani, MD, cardiologist and EP at Tyler CVC. “The main goal of the procedure is to restore a normal rhythm.”
AFib is very common — about one out of every 10 people over the age of 65 has the condition. However, patients with AFib often have other heart-related issues, such as heart failure or leaky valves. Other health problems such as smoking, COPD, sleep apnea, diabetes and obesity greatly increase the chance of a patient developing AFib.
If you or a loved-one notices symptoms of Afib, talk to your primary care physician. To find a physician near you, call 903-596-DOCS or visit UTHealthEastTexas.com for more information.