Getting Back Into Rhythm
He was mowing the lawn when it first kicked in. Lightheaded, the 6’3, 275-pound Anacortes, Wash., native reached for his wrist to feel his pulse. What Joseph Sexton felt was not the normal, steady rhythm of the heart we’ve all become accustomed to. His heart was beating very fast – “like a drumbeat.”
That was Mr. Sexton’s first experience with atrial fibrillation (a-fib), the most common type of irregular heart beat. It would be 20 years before he would be able, with the help of Cleveland Clinic heart surgeons, to declare himself free of a-fib.
After many years of anti-arrhythmic medications (amiodarone, Coumadin ®), five cardioversions and an ablation failed to control his irregular heartbeat, Mr. Sexton turned to the Internet to research other treatment options. He found an article by Cleveland Clinic surgeons about a surgical treatment called the Cox-Maze procedure. The paper cited a 95 percent success rate for the procedure.
Mr. Sexton checked with his local physicians and with his insurance company – all of whom were on board with his decision to seek out Cleveland Clinic for care. As he continued to research, Mr. Sexton’s confidence in Cleveland Clinic grew. “These [doctors] are the best in the world at what they do. Here is the best place in the world for heart care,” stated Mr. Sexton. “It was scary, but exciting at the same time.”
In July 2003, Cleveland Clinic cardiothoracic surgeon A. Marc Gillinov, MD, performed a successful Cox-Maze procedure on Mr. Sexton. Finally, after 20 years, Mr. Sexton had been cured of his a-fib. Today, he enjoys a life free of all the medications he had previously used to control his irregular heart rhythm and he offers this advice to patients suffering from a-fib: “If you’ve got chronic a-fib, don’t look past the gold standard – the Cox-Maze.”