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Austin, Texas, Physicians Second in Nation to Perform New Procedure for Difficult-to-Treat Atrial Fibrillation Cases

AUSTIN, Texas, March 4 /PRNewswire/ -- On Wednesday, March 4, 2009, Austin physicians Rodney P. Horton, electrophysiologist, and Andrew Hume, cardiac surgeon, were the second team in the nation to perform a convergent procedure for atrial fibrillation (A Fib).

Horton and Hume were part of an international team that traveled to Krakow, Poland, in January of 2009 to explore new ways to treat A Fib. During the trip, the entire team performed the first such procedure in the world, bringing together the expertise of cardiac surgeons and electrophysiologists.

During this procedure, the cardiac surgeon makes small incisions to access the heart, and creates surgical lesions that block the triggers and pathways of A Fib.

"This minimally invasive approach allows us to provide advanced care in the treatment of this condition with great benefit to the patient," said Hume. "Patients experience minimal discomfort and recovery time, allowing them to return to every day life quickly and cured."

When the surgical portion of the procedure is complete, the electrophysiologist takes over, creating a map of the heart using a cardiac mapping system to identify gaps in the lesions created by the surgeon. After the gaps are located, the electrophysiologist completes the ablation using a specialized irrigation catheter. This portion of the treatment is similar to a standard A Fib ablation, but requires less time.

The targeted patient population consists of those with chronic A Fib and extremely dilated left atria. These patients typically are very difficult to treat with a single or even a second electrophysiology catheter ablation. In fact, very few electrophysiologists will even attempt ablations on these individuals.

"It is very exciting to take what we, as a team, pioneered in Poland and bring it back to benefit our patients here in Central Texas," Horton said. "This will allow a certain population of people who suffer from A Fib to be cured, not just treated, but cured."

The Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center (TCAI) is a multi-million dollar international treatment, training and research institute specializing in heart rhythm disorders led by world-renowned electrophysiologist, Andrea Natale, M.D., F.A.C.C. TCAI is the first center of its kind in the U.S. devoted to curing A Fib.

A Fib, known as the "silent killer" because it often goes unnoticed, is a disorder found in roughly 2.2 million Americans. During A Fib, the heart's two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn't pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results.

The American Heart Association estimates that 20 percent of all strokes result from A Fib and are usually more debilitating due to the larger size of the clots. A person with A Fib has a six-fold increased risk of stroke versus patients with normal heart rhythm. The likelihood of developing A Fib increases with age, affecting roughly three to five percent of people over age 65.

Traditionally, patients diagnosed with A Fib take blood thinning medications to prevent blood clots from forming in the heart. Current blood thinning medications require frequent monitoring and have diet and other drug interactions causing many patients to discontinue use of the medication.

For more information about the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center, visit

For more information about Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia, visit

    Kristin Marcum or Erin Ochoa
    Elizabeth Christian & Associates Public Relations

SOURCE The Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David's Medical Center
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