‘It saves lives’: Lutheran Hospital offers new procedure for serious heart condition

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Lutheran Hospital offers a modernized alternative of a procedure to treat atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a serious heart rhythm disorder that affects an estimated 2.7 million to 6.1 million Americans.

AFib occurs when the heart’s electrical rhythm is disrupted, preventing blood from being pumped efficiently throughout the body. If left untreated, it can lead to serious health complications such as an increased risk of stroke.

AFib can be treated with medication and through a procedure called a cardiac ablation treatment. However, Lutheran Hospital has a modernized ablation treatment called pulmonary vein isolation or PVI, which drastically reduces recovery time due to its accuracy.

PVI uses a balloon-shaped device that adapts to the shape of the patient’s heart. The balloon contains a mini camera that provides a 360-degree live-action view that allows the doctor to see the areas affected, causing an irregular heartbeat. PVI creates scar tissue around the pulmonary veins through laser energy to block electrical signals that lead to AFib.

Pulmonary vein isolation or PVI to treat AFib

Lutheran Hospital is the first and only site in Indiana currently offering PVI. Dr. Jason Rodriguez, Director of Electrical Physiology, is the only doctor at Lutheran who can perform this procedure.

“The newest balloon has a feature where the ablation can occur automatically in 360 degrees. This has drastically improved procedural time,” said Dr. Rodriguez, “The less amount of time the patient’s on the table results in a safer procedure for the patient. Average times for this procedure would be anywhere from one and a half to three hours.”

One of Dr. Rodriguez’s patients, Sandy Johnston, underwent the procedure. She was living with AFib for 15 years and took medication that was no longer effectively treating her condition, said Dr. Rodriguez.

Johnston experienced a 44-hour long AFib incident that left her struggling to breathe. She became fearful for her life. That’s when she was referred to Dr. Rodriguez to explore her treatment options. He said that she was the ideal candidate for PVI.

“I was kept in the ER in the hospital for three days, and Dr. Rodriguez happened to be the hospital doctor at that point,” said Johnston, “We discussed the procedure. And at that point, I was ready to do anything because I thought I was going to die while I was in the hospital.”

Johnston did some research and decided to undergo PVI. She was amazed at how smooth the procedure went.

“I did a lot of sleeping during that time, but I wasn’t in any pain. I felt okay; it’s done. I’m still here. And that was pretty much it. I don’t remember anything other than the last thing, the oxygen mask being put on me.”

She was out of the hospital within 12 hours. A week after the treatment, she was able to return to her regular activities living a new life without the struggles of AFib.

“I feel good. I don’t have any more problems with AFib. I just know my heart’s workings. That’s what counts. The AFib is gone. It’s a thing of the past.”

Johnston recommends Dr. Rodriguez and the new PVI treatment to anyone living with AFib who is a good fit for the procedure.

“If you have AFib, and it’s bad, go and see Dr. Rodriguez. I would highly recommend that doctor. He is a caring doctor who explains things to you. He answers all your questions, and he listens. And he knows what he’s doing. He’s a genius.”

She believes the procedure gave her a second chance at life, “It saves lives. I’m absolutely convinced it saves lives. Other people may be so nervous and jittery, but don’t go into it terrified. Go into it having faith and trusting the doctors. We get two kidneys. We get two of everything. We get one heart. And if you don’t take care of it, it’s going to take you out.”

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