Atrial fibrillation – or afib – is the most common type of heart arrhythmia, sending a person to the hospital every 42 seconds. As we are in heart month, consider these other afib facts:
- Afib can cause chronic fatigue, blood clots, heart failure and stroke.
- One person dies every 4 minutes from afib in the U.S.
- Normally impacts people over 65 — the number of Americans with the condition is expected to swell to 8 million by 2050.
For years, it’s been widely assumed that there were no reliable treatments for those who have persistent afib. But for the first time ever, Vadim Fedorov, PhD and his team of researchers The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center are bringing the atria, or upper chambers of a donated human heart, back to life to look for answers.
Here’s how it works. The heart is placed in a dish surrounded by four, high-speed optical cameras and injected with dye to detect electrical activity. Normal imaging can capture about 200 recordings of the heart. This records 40,000 images in 3D. The clear mapping of the heart allows experts to find new areas to perform ablations, a procedure during which tiny cuts or burns are made to form scar tissue on the heart. The scar tissue can help disrupt the electrical circuitry of the heart and stop irregular beats.
Knowing exactly where to ablate the small areas of the heart can be challenging, especially in patients who have persistent atrial fibrillation. Their hearts beat erratically 24 hours per day, which can lead to stroke or heart failure. The research is already making treatments more accurate and therefore less likely for a patient to need repeat treatments. In the future, they hope to personalize the procedure to each patient’s needs.
Information for this story was provided by The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.