Wednesday, February 21, 2018
News Roundup

New hope for atrial fibrillation sufferers

Larry Martin, a salesman from Gibsonton, woke up one morning feeling dizzy and weak. He was 70 at the time, so he went to his doctor, who immediately called an ambulance to take him to the hospital because he had atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat that would vacillate from as low as 44 beats per minute to as high as 200.

Of all the problems a heart can have, atrial fibrillation, or "a-fib," remains one of the most puzzling.

For reasons no one quite understands, some hearts develop spots of fibrous tissue that disrupt the cascade of electricity flowing from the top of the heart to the bottom during each beat. The result is an irregular heartbeat. The jostling of the blood in the heart caused by the irregular beats can create clots which, if they travel to the brain, can cause a stroke.

The treatment involves ablation — the destruction of those spots of fibrous heart tissue that disrupt the flow of electricity. A catheter inserted through an incision in the groin is run up to the heart, and destroys the fibrous spots with either liquid hydrogen or high heat.

Martin went to see Dr. Dilip Mathew, a cardiologist at Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute in Tampa, who put him on medication designed to normalize his heartbeat, and it worked fairly well, "but it was like a medical umbilical cord," said Martin. "I always carried my meds with me in a pill container I kept on my key chain. If my heart went out of rhythm I had to call the doctor, and he would immediately make changes in my medication."

Martin was accustomed to driving up to 1,000 miles a week for his job, but he started to feel uneasy about taking long trips, so Dr. Mathew suggested a new type of ablation that he helped to develop.

In a three-hour procedure — much shorter than the 6 to 8 hours once needed — he threaded a new type of catheter known as the Thermocool catheter through a small incision in Martin's groin, up an artery, and into the heart. There the catheter delivered heat produced by radiofrequency waves, and then immediately irrigated the ablated spots to dissipate the heat and prevent excessive damage to the tissue.

"One of the problems we had with traditional ablation was charring at the end of the catheter," Dr. Mathew said. "This would make the risk of stroke higher. The Thermocool significantly decreased that problem."

The ablation may cause temporary inflammation that can disrupt the heart rhythm, often making patients feel discouraged, but that usually goes away in two or three months, according to Dr. Mathew. "We have to educate patients about what to expect so they don't get disenchanted," he said. "We have to tell them some of these episodes are natural, and do not indicate procedure has failed."

Martin has returned to work, and has been doing interviews to promote the new technique that helped him. "People don't realize there's a highly successful procedure that can help them get their freedom back," he said.

Martin feels so good he has revived his goal of living to 100.

"The number of people in this country living to 100 doubles every few years," he said. "Why can't I be one of them?"

Tom Valeo writes frequently about health matters. He can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Editorial: A matter of values: kids or guns?

Editorial: A matter of values: kids or guns?

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn’t close as ...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
Billy Graham found his calling as a Bible college student in Tampa

Billy Graham found his calling as a Bible college student in Tampa

TAMPA — It is a story as old as the Old Testament itself: the righteous man who comes out of a corrupt and sinful place.Noah rode out the flood.Moses led his people out of Egypt.And Billy Graham emerged as a young evangelist from Tampa, a city of rac...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Focused on Cuba’s future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

Focused on Cuba’s future, Rep. Castor skips meeting with Raul Castro

TAMPA — One highlight of a congressional delegation’s visit to Cuba this week was an impromptu meeting with President Raul Castro.But not for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.The Tampa Democrat joined five other Democrats on the trip, in part to investigate th...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

Former Florida Rep. Robert Wallace jumps from Tampa overpass

TAMPA — Former Florida state Rep. Robert Wallace ended his life Monday by jumping from a Dale Mabry Highway overpass, records show. He was 65.At least one witness saw Wallace plunge 40 to 50 feet onto Gunn Highway, according to a Hillsborough County ...
Updated: 24 minutes ago
World Liquors sign will live on in St. Petersburg

World Liquors sign will live on in St. Petersburg

The World Liquors sign at the corner of 16th Street and Central Avenue since 1961 will live on as a beacon of St. Petersburg's retro hipness — three blocks to the west. Mark Ferguson, owner of Ferg’s Sports Bar, told the Tampa Bay Times ...
Updated: 25 minutes ago

Uber unrolls new pool service that could drastically cut fare

A new way to Uber is coming to Florida, but the "Express Pool" feature is only rolling out in Miami and seven of other cities to start.That means Tampa Bay will have to wait and see if it will get access to Uber’s latest offering, which links riders ...
Updated: 26 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Man arrested after 3-year-old girl in his care found wandering streets

Man arrested after 3-year-old girl in his care found wandering streets

PORT RICHEY — A 59-year-old man was arrested Tuesday evening after a 3-year-old girl in his care was found wandering outside alone, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office.Deputies said they were sent to Larry Dixon’s residence at 8710 Bench D...
Updated: 1 hour ago
How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

How will Douglas High students go back to class? There’s now a plan in place.

When students return to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High for the first time next Tuesday, they will be greeted by additional counselors and law enforcement."There will be a plethora of counselors and services at the school," Broward Schools Superintende...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Physician seeks Pasco Times building for rehab center

Physician seeks Pasco Times building for rehab center

PORT RICHEY — A Hudson physician hopes to acquire the Times Publishing Co. west Pasco office and convert it into an inpatient center for substance abuse rehabilitation and mental health care. Estaban Alfonzon Ruiz, a doctor of internal medicine, file...
Updated: 1 hour ago