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Advanced Heart Procedure Treats Growing Problem
Date:7/8/2009

WAUSAU, Wis., July 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Like an estimated 5 million other Americans, Barry Simonis had atrial fibrillation, a common heart condition that greatly increases the risk of stroke and causes the most important muscle in our bodies to beat irregularly.

Aspirus cardiovascular surgeon John Johnkoski, M.D., recently performed an advanced surgical procedure called thoracoscopic ablation on Simonis to correct the condition that plagued the Rosholt resident for more than 10 years. During the procedure his heart went back into rhythm, and he went home in less than two days.

"This is a huge advance because this procedure can be used on patients that until just recently, would have required open-heart surgery," said Dr. Johnkoski, one of fewer than 50 physicians in the country that perform thoracoscopic ablation. "This (procedure) allows people to get off medications, prevents strokes, and helps people live longer."

Impact of atrial fibrillation

The irregular heartbeat associated with atrial fibrillation is caused by a faulty electrical impulse, which can be fairly well-managed with medications and a treatment called cardioversion, a brief procedure where a doctor delivers an electrical shock to convert an abnormal heart rhythm back to normal rhythm. Even if the condition is closely monitored and managed, however, it still raises the risk of stroke and can cause heart damage over time.

"For me, atrial fibrillation was more bothersome than anything," said the 57-year-old Simonis. "I just got tired of all the trips to the doctor for blood work, and I had 14 cardioversions in about 10 years. It's all such an inconvenience."

People with atrial fibrillation usually have to take Coumadin, a blood thinner that reduces the risk of stroke. While Coumadin is effective in preventing strokes, the drug can produce side effects that are difficult for some peop
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SOURCE Aspirus
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