Low Risk, High Success

Rich Rocha underwent a minimally invasive procedure that cured his heart abnormality

Rich Rocha had frequent bouts with a racing heart rate. He also felt out of breath when exercising. This pattern continued for over 10 years, but every time he went to the doctor, his EKG was normal.

“My heart would start beating extra fast and hard, and I’d feel a rush of adrenaline,” Rocha said. “I also noticed that when I ran or played basketball, I’d get winded and just have to push through it.”

Then, last summer, he went to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s Emergency Department with a foot infection. His rapid heart rate reappeared, and an EKG finally revealed Rocha had atrial flutter, a common heart abnormality where the organ beats faster than usual. His cardiologist, Shahe Garabedian, MD, discovered that Rocha suffered from another heart condition, atrial fibrillation—or A-Fib—which causes the heart to beat irregularly. Facing an increased risk of heart failure or stroke if both heart conditions were left untreated, Rocha began taking antiarrhythmic drugs—a fix, but not a solution. 

He soon learned he was a good candidate for flutter ablation, which completely cures atrial flutter. “Dr. Garabedian said flutter ablation had a high success rate, 98 percent, and was low risk,” said Rocha, a mortgage underwriter who lives in Saugus. “I thought, ‘Why continue with medications if it could be fixed?’ ”

Last December, he underwent the one-hour, minimally invasive procedure. Aided by heart mapping and navigational technologies, Shervin Sadrpour, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist and Medical Director of Electrophysiology Services at Henry Mayo, guided wires and catheters through Rocha’s leg vein and into his heart. The catheters transmit electrical energy to the target area, damaging the tissue and resulting in scarring that blocks electrical signals within the heart.

“By understanding the mechanism of an abnormal rhythm and the appropriate use of advanced technology, we can deliver better medical care,” Dr. Sadrpour said, noting electrophysiology, a relatively new branch of cardiology, has revolutionized treatment of some cardiac conditions. “Some procedures that required open heart surgery in the past are now done more effectively by making small incisions in the groin area. Recovery times are much quicker, too.” 

After a few weeks of taking it easy, Rocha resumed his full physical activities and is now only taking medication for atrial fibrillation. He recommends the flutter ablation procedure for anyone with a similar heart condition. “It’s low risk and the rewards are great. I feel much better. I only wish I could’ve had it done sooner.” IYH

Henry Mayo offers electrophysiology services as part of its cardiovascular care program. For more information, go to henrymayo.com/electrophysiology.