Arizona leading the way when it comes to new technology for atrial fibrillation procedures

The FDA approved a new cryoablation system for atrial fibrillation and Banner Phoenix is one of the first to use it.
Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 10:09 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Millions of Americans are being treated for atrial fibrillation, also known as AFib, or an irregular heartbeat. It can lead to blood clots, strokes, or heart failure. The FDA recently approved new technology to treat AFib, and the first American patients to benefit from it are in Phoenix.

Banner Phoenix says they have long been a leader when it comes to AFib procedures. The catheter, which is a tube with a balloon device attached to it, has been around for 20 years. It’s inserted into the heart during AFib procedures. But this new technology has two different sizes for the balloons, giving doctors more options when it comes to the best way to treat a specific patient.

“I had four episodes within a three or four-month period earlier this year,” recent patient Keith Kaback said. After those recent cases of AFib, and a stroke back in 2020, Kaback wasn’t taking any more chances. The former physician knew Banner Phoenix was the go-to location for irregular heartbeat technology, so he wasn’t worried about being one of the first in the country to try their latest balloon catheter device, called the POLARx Cryoablation System. “What was reassuring was the fact that the balloon had been studied for a year or two prior,” Kaback said.

Instead of the one-size-fits-all balloon traditionally used for the last couple of decades, this new technology has two balloon sizes: 28 millimeters and 31 millimeters. “It’s able to seal off the area, and then perform a freezing, and get in the area that is causing AFib to start,” Banner Phoenix director of heart rhythm services Dr. Wilber Su said.

Su says having different balloon sizes allows the catheter to more accurately freeze problematic tissue, eventually creating scarring that blocks irregular electrical signals and helps regulate heartbeats. “This is actually a very easy way to freeze off a bad area,” Su said. “It just thaws out, and allows the area to heal over time.”

So far, Su says he’s performed about 10 different procedures, and that they’ve gone smoothly. But the desire to improve the efficiency of these catheters never stops. Su says the next step is combining the multiple sizes of balloons with mapping technology. “To be able to really define the actual benefit in each patient,” Su said. “That way, we collect that over hundreds and thousands of patients and track them over time to find out how much better they do.”

As for Kaback, he’s optimistic about what lies ahead a little over two weeks after his procedure. “It will give me more peace of mind, less fear that I’d be at risk for a stroke again in the future,” he said.

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