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New cardiac cryoballoon ablation procedure helps patients with heart arrhythmia

Feb. 25, 2016 – Thanks to an innovative new technology at Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS), airline pilot Stephen Wilcox is flying high – literally.

Previously grounded by a heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, he is clear to fly once again.

“At night, I would lie on the pillow, and hear my odd heartbeat missing beats,” says the 54-year-old Durham resident.  “After I would have an episode like this, my heart would pause for 7 to 8 seconds before finally going back to beating normally.”

Wilcox was suffering from a type of arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation, or AF, which occurs when there is disorganized electrical activity in the top chambers of the heart, causing an irregular heart rhythm. This can lead to a feeling of racing heart rate, irregular or skipped heartbeats, fatigue/tiredness, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, dizziness, and even fainting.

Thanks to the new cryoballoon ablation therapy procedure offered through the Central East Regional Cardiac Care Program, patients like Wilcox can now get care closer to home. This procedure is specifically designed to treat AF, using freezing to treat the specific heart cells that are causing the abnormal beating. A balloon catheter is inserted into the affected heart chamber, and is inflated and filled with liquid nitrous oxide. This freezes the balloon, which is in contact with the targeted heart tissue. Often 3D-mapping technology will also be used to visualize the inside of the heart and precisely guide the balloon and ablation. The procedure is fast and effective, and can minimize radiation and anaesthesia.

This specialized service is performed at the regional cardiac care centre located at Rouge Valley Centenary (RVC) hospital campus, which features three catheterization labs and a designated procedure room for arrhythmia treatments. This is where Stephen Wilcox was referred and treated by RVHS cardiologist Dr. Derek Yung, who along with Dr. Bhavanesh Makanjee, are amongst the most experienced operators with the cryoballoon in the province. Dr. Makanjee and Dr. Yung work in collaboration at the cardiac centre with Dr. Amir Janmohamed, director of electrophysiology at RVHS, and Dr. Ted Davies, electrophysiologist with The Scarborough Hospital.

“We want to get the message out — if you have symptoms like palpitations or fainting, talk to your doctor for a referral,” says Dr. Makanjee. “The cryoballoon ablation procedure is quick, safe, and effective.”

For Wilcox, the procedure was a perfect success, giving him relief when other therapies and treatments could not. “The procedure was a very positive experience for me. Within six months of the diagnosis, after having what felt like every test known to man, thanks to cryoballoon ablation the problem was solved. How does it get better than that?”

Patients with AF or who are experiencing issues of irregular heartbeat should discuss their condition with their family doctor, and can contact the arrhythmia management clinic at RVHS at 416-284-8131 ext. 5327 to learn more about arrhythmia services or if cryoballoon ablation therapy is right for them.

About the Central East Regional Cardiac Care Program

Rouge Valley Health System is home to the Central East Regional Cardiac Care Program for Durham and Scarborough. With a highly qualified and experienced team of more than 20 cardiologists and over 100 health-care professionals, the regional program is integrated with the community to ensure excellent, timely care. Each year, more than 6,000 patients are seen by the program for a wide range of cardiac care services, including life-saving emergency and elective interventions to unblock blood vessels in the heart; advanced cardiac imaging to get a better view of what's happening with a patient's heart; pacemaker and ICD implants and electrophysiology procedures to manage and treat arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats); and cardiovascular rehabilitation and education to help patients throughout the broader Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) region to achieve an optimal heart-healthy lifestyle. As the designated cardiac care centre for the regional program, Rouge Valley delivers care in partnership with The Scarborough Hospital, Lakeridge Health, and the Central East LHIN.

Rouge Valley Health System – Together—the best at what we do

Rouge Valley Health System is an excellent acute care community hospital with many programs, including 24/7/365 emergency, advanced (level 2C) maternal and neonatal care in a state-of-the art birthing centre, extensive specialized paediatric services, surgery, cancer care, mental health and regional cardiac care. Affiliated with the University of Toronto, Rouge Valley consists of several health-care sites, including two community hospital campuses: Rouge Valley Centenary in Scarborough; and Rouge Valley Ajax and Pickering in west Durham. Together, a team of physicians, nurses and many other professionals care for a broad spectrum of patient health conditions. Working in consultation and partnership with community members, other hospitals, health-care organizations, the Central East Local Health Integration Network and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Rouge Valley continues to improve its programs and cater to the needs of the growing communities of Scarborough, Pickering, Seaton, Ajax and Whitby.