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YOUR HEALTH: The laser balloon used to treat A-Fib

A new device is making heart surgery better and faster for both surgeon and patient

PLANTATION, Fla. — There's a new FDA-approved device that is giving heart surgeons the upper hand when it comes to treating A-Fib.

Atrial fibrillation, also called A-Fib or AF, is an irregular heartbeat.

It's a serious condition that if left untreated can cause stroke, blood clots and even heart failure. 

Just a few months ago, 45-year old Felicia Hunter, who loves to exercise to keep her heart healthy, had the heart scare of her life.

"My heart started to beat really, really fast, uncontrollably," she remembered.

"It was going 200 beats per minute."

She was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with A-Fib.

"And instead of the heart beating as it should, it kind of wiggles like a bag of worms," explained Dr. David Kenigsberg, Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiologist at Westside Regional Medical Center in Plantation, Florida.

At the start of their condition, patients typically have short episodes.

"And as time goes on, they have more and more episodes," said Dr. Kenigsberg.

"The episodes become closely spaced together to the point where they're in it all the time."

Felicia's episode was lasting for days, so her only option was surgery. 

She was going to have an ablation with a new FDA-approved HeartLight X3 laser balloon.

"The difference between this iteration and the prior version is that this balloon has a motor which is able to move the laser beam in a specified fashion around the circle anteroom of the pulmonary vein," Dr. Kenigsberg explained.

It's making surgery more efficient and quicker. 

A procedure before this new balloon would take about three and a half hours but with the motorized movement of laser on the Heartlight X-3 balloon, the procedure is less than half the time. 

Felicia was doing better right after surgery.

"I was laying on the pillow and I could hear my heart," she recalled.

"It was just amazing to hear it and it wasn't going 'boom, boom, boom, boom'.  It wasn't doing that, it was taking it's time each beat."

HeartLight shows how the laser balloon works.

Three major types of tachycardia are atrial tachycardia, supraventricular tachycardia, and ventricular tachycardia. 

Atrial Fibrillation is one of the most common forms of cardiac arrhythmia, affecting 0.4% of the general population and 5% to 10% of persons over 65 years of age. 

Abnormalities in the heart's electrical impulses in patients with AF cause blood to be pumped improperly, resulting in pooling, or clotting. 

If a blood clot moves to an artery in the brain, AF can lead to stroke. 

AF is also associated with increased risk of congestive heart failure and cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease).

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.