West Florida Hospital July 28, 2015

Pensacola, FL -- West Florida Hospital now offers an innovative new treatment for atrial fibrillation, a common but serious heart rhythm disorder. Known as "cryoablation," the technology involves freezing the heart tissue around the pulmonary veins to help stop abnormal electrical activity that causes atrial fibrillation. Performed in the electrophysiology lab, the procedure has been shown to be effective in treating atrial fibrillation.

During a cryoablation procedure, an electrophysiologist (a cardiologist who has additional training in the electrical system of the heart and iagnosing/treating irregular heartbeats or arrhythmias) inserts a thin, flexible tube called a balloon catheter into a blood vessel (usually in the upper leg) and threads it through the body until it reaches the heart. This catheter has an inflatable balloon on one end that engages the pulmonary vein. Once the balloon is positioned correctly, the electrophysiologist directs a stream of extremely cold energy through the catheter to destroy a very small amount of tissue that triggers an irregular heartbeat.

"Cryoablation can be used to restore normal heart rhythm by disabling heart cells that create an irregular heartbeat in the first place," said MARCELO BRANCO, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist with Northwest Florida Heart Group and one of the physicians who performs the procedure. "By using cold rather than heat to disable damaged tissue, this technology may reduce the chances of impacting healthy heart tissue and surrounding structures."

In addition to Dr. Branco, electrophysiologist Farhat Mehmood, M.D. also performs the procedure at West Florida Hospital.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 2.7 million Americans live with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, which is a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots causing stroke, heart failure and other complications. Because the heart pumps blood less efficiently to the rest of the body during atrial fibrillation, many people with the disorder have decreased blood pressure and suffer from weakness, fatigue, light-headedness, chest pain and shortness of breath.For more information about the cardiovascular services offered at West Florida Hospital, visit westfloridahospital.com or call (850) 494-3212.