Community Hospital opens new cath lab for treating atrial fibrillation, other irregular heartbeat issues
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MONTEREY, Calif. — Atrial fibrillation — a quivering or irregular heartbeat — is so common in people over the age of 65 that the Journal of Geriatric Cardiology predicts an epidemic among Baby Boomers in the next 10-20 years. To help care for that growing group as well as people with other heart rhythm issues, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula’s Tyler Heart Institute has brought advanced technology to its electrophysiology lab, the place where heart arrhythmias are treated.
“We’ve brought expertise and technology usually found at an academic-level setting to our community’s hospital,” says Dr. Steven Fowler, a cardiac electrophysiology specialist recruited from New York University’s Langone Medical Center to serve as medical director of clinical cardiac electrophysiology. “This is the latest and greatest.”
The electrophysiology (EP) lab has new imaging, measuring, and archiving systems and the latest in three-dimensional heart-mapping. Doctors are able to photograph the heart more effectively while minimizing radiation exposure to patients and staff.
“The 3-D heart-mapping technology provides us with a great look at the heart’s rhythms in real time,” Fowler says. “And we do it all through just a single vein puncture in the leg, in which we insert a catheter threaded to the heart.”
Community Hospital is one of the few facilities in the United States using a new jet ventilator, a device that minimizes the motion of breathing, Fowler says.
“As we’re working inside the heart, the lungs are moving as the patient breathes,” he says. “The ventilator makes the patient breathe in small puffs, which maintains oxygenation in the body while minimizing lung and heart movement so we can work in a very safe, efficient way.”
Arrhythmias are treated in a variety of ways, initially through medication, but may require implanting a pacemaker, an implantable defibrillator, or ablation, a procedure to block the pathways of electrical impulses in the heart causing the rhythm issue.
Patients will be able to benefit from two new devices, the Micra™, for people with slow heartbeats, and Watchman®, for people with atrial fibrillation.
Micra is a wireless pacemaker for people with bradycardia, or slow heart rhythms. It is about 90-percent smaller than traditional pacemakers — about the size of a large vitamin. It is inserted in the heart through a leg vein; traditional pacemakers are implanted just below the collarbone, with electrical wires traveling through a vein to the heart.
“It’s excellent for older patients because there’s no tethering to the skin or soft tissue,” he says, “and it has no wires that might break over time.”
The device can be monitored remotely via the internet, enabling more mobility for the patient, Fowler says.
Soon, Community Hospital will implant the Watchman device, which reduces the risk of strokes and enables many people with atrial fibrillation to stop taking blood thinners. The Watchman, about the size of a quarter, is implanted to seal off part of the upper-left chamber of the heart, where 90 percent of stroke-causing blood clots are formed. This prevents clots from escaping and causing strokes.
“All of this is part of this next wave of technology in the field of heart-rhythm disorders, creating a smaller footprint in the body by doing more effective work with less material.”
ABOUT COMMUNITY HOSPITAL AND TYLER HEART INSTITUTE
Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula, established in 1934, has grown and evolved in direct response to the changing healthcare needs of the people it serves. It is a nonprofit healthcare provider with 205 staffed acute-care hospital beds and 28 skilled-nursing beds, delivering a continuum of care from birth to end of life, and every stage in between. The hospital is home to Tyler Heart Institute, which provides a broad range of cardiac care, from prevention to open-heart surgery and rehabilitation. Find more information at www.chomp.org.