September is National Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month


Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) requiring treatment and increases with age. It is estimated to affect 6 million Americans. Atrial Fibrillation occurs if rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers, known as the atria, to fibrillate. The term fibrillate means to contract very fast and irregularly.

Dr. Abraham Kocheril, MD, in the Department of Cardiology at Christie Clinic, often sees area patients who are undertreated and sometimes over treated for AF. The awareness of pulmonary vein isolation, a type of catheter ablation, as a treatment aimed at rhythm control is also limited.

At Provena Covenant Medical Center, Dr. Kocheril offers the option of a robotic-assisted catheter ablation procedure. This allows the doctor’s hand movements to guide a robotic catheter from a remote control panel allowing for more precise and stable motion. Typically the patient will stay in the hospital overnight and go home the next day.  Both at Christie and at Provena Covenant, an array of diagnostic and therapeutic modalities is available for the management of atrial fibrillation.  With the increasing incidence of AF, our priority is to ensure the best outcomes for AF patents.

It is important for patients to understand the symptoms of this heart condition. Signs and symptoms can include the following:

  • Palpitations – feelings that your heart is skipping a beat, fluttering, or beating too fast
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness or problems exercising
  • Chest Pain
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion

Because atrial fibrillation can cause blood to clot in the heart, it can lead to strokes. Guidelines for treating atrial fibrillation require trying a medication first, and if that doesn’t work the physician may try a catheter ablation. This is a type of minimally-invasive surgery where a catheter is inserted into the blood vessels to destroy heart tissue causing or maintaining the abnormality. “Medications have improved over the years, including a new rhythm control medication and an effective alternative to warfarin to prevent strokes,” Dr. Kocheril stated. “Ablation has progressed with technologies such as the catheter robotics that we use. There are promising emerging technologies such as cryoballoon ablation that we intend to acquire.” Imaging, including intra-cardiac echocardiography, 3 dimensional CT, and 3 dimensional electro-anatomic mapping, has become a routine part of our catheter ablation procedures.