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Hospital Performs Its First Ablation Procedures

Hospital Performs Its First Ablation Procedures

The Monterey County Herald

January 04, 2010

Jan. 4—If your heart rate is faster than it should be and initial treatment doesn’t help, you might be a candidate for ablation, an emerging technology that can isolate the faulty cells with a heat process and destroy the tissue.

“It’s one of the miracles” of modern medicine, said Dr. Richard Gray, medical director for the Tyler Heart Institute at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.

Ablations, in which a catheter is used to insert tiny electrodes into the heart, can solve a patient’s irregular heartbeat “75 to 80 percent of the time,” said Gray. Patients can usually go home the day after the procedure.

It’s only in the last five or six years that ablations have come into what Gray calls “prime time availability” for patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common heart arrhythmia. It’s a fast, irregular heartbeat.

The hospital’s first two ablations were performed Wednesday in its new electrophysiology lab by Dr. Taylor Liu, and both patients were scheduled to go home the next day.

Other heart procedures, which the hospital already has been doing, such as implanting pacemakers and defibrillators, also will be done in the new lab. Pacemakers are for hearts that aren’t beating quickly enough, so it’s rare that somebody with one would be a candidate for an ablation.

“What’s new is the lab itself, dedicated exclusively to electrophysiology procedures and equipped with the latest mapping hardware and software,” Gray said. The mapping software cost

$750,000, most of the funding coming from donors. Ablations cost between $25,000 and $75,000 and are eligible for reimbursement by Medicare other insurers.

Monterey is not the only place ablations are available. They’re already being performed at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

At Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City, doctors have performed more than 1,000 ablations. Some of those doctors also will perform the procedure in Monterey.

The new lab is part of the hospital’s goal to provide comprehensive services for heart patients. The hospital had performed 438 open-heart surgeries since first offering them in February 2007.

A person with atrial arrhythmia is far more likely to suffer a stroke, said Gray.

In an ablation procedure, which can last up to six hours, the electrodes inserted into the heart map electrical impulses, allowing doctors to identify the exact spot of the problem. The cells that aren’t working properly are isolated and destroyed with heat from radio frequency electrical energy.

Drugs used to treat arrhythmia “can be caustic” to the body, said Mike Barber, director of the Heart Institute. When ablation is successful, “you can come off medication.”

Barber expects more and more people will get ablation as the baby boomer generation gets older. People have the mindset that “we’re going to play tennis until we’re 90,” he said.

Lane Wallace can be reached at 646-4478 or mhbusiness@montereyherald.com.


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