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New Atrial Fibrillation Device Shows Promise

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Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
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Cardiologists in Columbus are the first in the nation to test new technology for patients suffering from atrial fibrillation. Doctors say it's a safer and more effective alternative. 

Health officials say nearly 3 million Americans live with atrial fibrillation, a condition that causes irregular heartbeats. Atrial fibrillation or AFib also increases the risk of a heart-related death and stroke. In chronic cases, doctors perform an ablation, which creates small scars on the heart to eliminate the source of rhythm disruption. But it comes with a risk of damaging the surrounding area. Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center is part of a global clinical trial using pulsed field ablation technology, which uses small electrical pulses allowing doctors to be more precise. Electrophysiologist Dr. John Hummel of Ohio State's Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital.    

“It essentially causes the cells that are causing the problem to leak and cease electrical conduction without actually altering the tissue in the way that burning tissue or freezing tissue would,” Electrophysiologist Dr. John Hummel of Ohio State's Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital said. “There is no heat signature with the delivery. This allows us to ablate the tissue until we’re satisfied that there’s not going to be recurrent electrical activity.” 

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Credit Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
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Dr. John Hummel speaks to Rick Lang before he undergoes a heart ablation to treat his atrial fibrillation at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Lang was the first patient in the U.S. to receive an ablation using the new device.

Hummel performed the first procedure using the new technology on Waterville, Oh resident Rick Lang.

"As I sit here right now, I feel very good," Lang said. "My heart is doing what it's supposed to be doing. There's a calmness to my chest versus being in an episodic situation and dealing with the feeling that it's just not right."

The Food and Drug Administration approved the six-month clinical trial in January. In addition to Ohio State, it's also taking place in Australia, Canada, and Europe.  If successful, experts hope it becomes the standard method to help resolve the common heart condition.

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. He earned Broadcasting and Journalism degrees from the University of Florida.