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Patients with AFib benefit from new technology developed at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics



Iowa City, Iowa – A safer approach for treating patients with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is made possible by new technologies.

Among persons with abnormal heart rhythms, AFib is the most frequent, according to doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Heart failure and even stroke may result from it.

”We’re changing the way that we practice medicine by building better technology,” said Dr. Steven Mickelsen.

Extreme heat or cold has been used as the primary treatment for AFib sufferers for many years in an attempt to eliminate the muscle that causes irregular heartbeats.
Although the damaged muscle was successfully treated with this procedure, the surrounding healthy tissues and blood vessels would also be harmed by the high temperatures.

”I recognized that there were some big problems that we had to overcome,” said Dr. Mickelsen.

Thus, to improve care standards, Dr. Steven Mickelsen created a safer solution for the issue that 1% of people encounter.

The term for it is pulse field ablation. It delivers a very strong, very short electric shock that kills the muscle.

”I was looking for a way to solve all these problems and it turned out it was just by changing the energy and playing a little bit with the way the catheters are built that we were able to make a huge step forward in solving those problems,” he said.

Physicians can make safer corrections with PFA.

”The advantage of that is twofold. One is, it’s really quick. The other advantage is it destroys the muscle, but it doesn’t damage significantly the blood vessels or the tissue,” said Dr. Barry London, Director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and the Director of the Abboud Cardiovascular Research Center and a professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa.

According to the doctors, the new technology shortens procedure times while also being safer.

”If we can decrease the time that it takes to do the procedure, we can do more per day and people won’t need to wait months to have the procedure done,” said Dr. London.

Physicians also mentioned that they’ve noticed less pain from patients.

”I called these patients and they were like, I don’t even feel like I had this procedure done. So it’s much, much more, you know, satisfying for the patient compared to our older procedures,” said Dr. Paari Dominic, UI Associate Professor of Medicine.

This year, the FDA gave the technology approval. Only about a dozen procedures had been completed by the doctors from UIHC when we spoke with them on February 29. More treatments were scheduled for the next few days. However, Dr. Dominic stated that he thinks the technology will become the new norm for care once it is more broadly accessible.

”I think many physicians around the country are just waiting to get their hands on this technology,” he said.