Elizabeth Hilderbrand never imagined that just three weeks after knee surgery she would need a heart procedure, but that is exactly what happened. During a routine EKG for her knee repair, it was discovered that she had a condition called atrial flutter, which meant her heart was beating too quickly.
"Atrial flutter can be very dangerous," notes Glenn Brammer, MD, a board certified cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Augusta Health's Heart and Vascular Center. "This disorder occurs when misfiring cells cause the upper and lower chambers of the heart to contract very rapidly. When the heart cannot pump blood in its usual coordinated fashion, blood can pool in the upper chambers of the heart, which in turn can cause small blood clots to form, raising the risk of stroke."
Hilderbrand's heart beat almost twice as fast as it should have, making her feel like she had been out jogging when she was sitting at home. As a result, she felt tired much of the time. Thankfully, Dr. Brammer performed a special procedure to treat her condition. Atrial ablation uses a specially tipped catheter to destroy misfiring cells in the part of the heart that normally regulates its steady rhythm. Within a few days of her test results, Hilderbrand went to see Dr. Brammer. Just three weeks after knee surgery, she underwent the procedure.
Her ablation procedure and recovery went so smoothly that she almost didn't feel she had surgery, Hilderbrand says. She has more energy, doesn't wheeze when she is exercising, sleeps well and feels great. "I feel totally like a different person," she says. "I trust Dr. Brammer, and I'd do it again if I needed it."
She was especially impressed with the bedside manner of the staff in the operating room. They immediately put her at ease. "Everyone in the operating room was doing their job, but they still worked hard to make me feel comfortable," she recalls.
Estimates are that by the year 2020, roughly 10 million Americans will be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, an irregular heartbeat that is similar to atrial flutter. Mark Masonheimer, RN, administrative director for the Heart and Vascular Center, says that the addition of the ablation procedure to the array of protocols is extremely important. "Ablation will be used to treat both atrial flutter and the more common atrial fibrillation," he says. "Dr. Brammer can use ablation to relieve symptoms of A-fib and reduce the risk of stroke."
The addition of this procedure enhances an already fine heart and vascular program. "We performed more than 800 catheterization procedures last year alone," says Masonheimer," and 347 interventions to prevent heart attack."