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HeartLight helps patients with irregular heartbeats

September 3, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The HeartLight is helping heartbeats get back to normal. The new treatment is helping treat a problem affecting millions of Americans, and also helping doctors do something they've never done before.

When Bret Story had his first episode of atrial fibrillation, he thought he was having a heart attack.

"It felt like my heart was going to explode. Everything was just racing," Story described.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition that causes your heart to beat fast and out of rhythm. It's the most common form of arrhythmia and can lead to stroke or heart attack.

As Story remodeled the bar he's owned for 17 years, he says it happened more and more as time wore on. He said he felt out of breath and had zero energy.

Story was picked to be one of the first people to under go a new procedure with the HeartLight. It's a balloon catheter with a camera inserted through a tiny hole in the groin, giving doctors a new way to burn away the problem.

"We can actually look into the heart, which is fascinating to actually see the heart, the beating heart, and to actually see the target right there in front of us," said Dr. David E. Haines, a cardiac surgeon at Beaumont Hospital.

Haines says traditional ablation treatments that purposely damage problem areas in the heart to fix it aren't too precise because it's very difficult to manipulate the catheter.

He says the beating heart images he sees with the HeartLight allow him to aim and fire the laser more accurately to make a perfect line of burns around the problem area.

It's been two years since Story's HeartLight treatment. He hasn't had an atrial fibrillation episode since.

Haines says the HeartLight is designed for patients whose atrial fibrillation starts and stops by itself. Recruiting for phase three trials of the Heartlight are going on right now. You can learn more about the new treatment at http://clinicaltrials.gov.


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