It wasn’t painful. But it was a startling sensation. “It was as though someone had reached inside my chest, spread their fingers and shaken their hand. There was a sense of fluttering,” recalls 58-year-old Bill Braun of Cleveland Heights, Ohio.
Braun says his heart zipped along at about 150 beats a minute, then returned to normal. He thought it was a fluke. He was never out of breath. But he wasn’t out of the woods, either.
It took a while for doctors to observe Braun’s symptoms. “Every time I got near an EKG machine or a nurse, my heart beat along just fine,” says Braun. “Finally, I was at an appointment when the fibrillation started.” His doctors diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), a common, and dangerous, rhythm disorder of the heart.
Ablation Procedure Treats A-Fib
Medications helped only marginally. Cleveland Clinic electrophysiologists told Braun up front there was an 85 percent chance they could eliminate his atrial fibrillation by performing ablation, a procedure in which several catheters are inserted into large veins in both sides of your groin and in your neck, and advanced to your right atrium. Energy is delivered through the catheters to the area around the pulmonary vein openings to stop the abnormal impulses.
So in December 2004, Braun underwent a pulmonary vein (PV) ablation. Catheters were placed the large veins in each groin and in the carotid artery, and Braun was lightly sedated for the four-hour procedure.
Braun says he woke up with no pronounced pain. “Everything was fine for a while,” says Braun of the ensuing weeks, “then it seemed like it was starting all over again.”
A Second Chance
Yet, Braun wasn’t overly discouraged that he turned out to be among the “other” 15 percent for whom ablation doesn’t work the first time. He remained optimistic because his doctors said the success rate for those needing a second procedure was 97 percent.
Braun returned in March 2005 for the second ablation. Indeed, his second procedure worked like a charm. “Within three months, I was off meds,” he says. “I crossed my fingers, and four weeks later, I was pretty sure I was in good shape.” Braun says he took the blood thinner Coumadin for a brief period. “Now I’m off that, too, and I’ve been fine ever since.”
Of Cleveland Clinic doctors, nurses and assistants, Braun says, “They were tremendous to the extreme. I am eternally grateful to them.”
If you need more information, contact us, chat online with a nurse or call the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute Resource & Information Nurse at 216.445.9288 or toll-free at 866.289.6911. We would be happy to help you.
This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.