Rhythm Section

Minimally invasive technique eliminates source of erratic heartbeats

The year 2017 started out rough for Michael Delgado, a student at Southeastern University studying ministerial leadership. He began experiencing health difficulties that were highly unusual for a man in his early 20s.

Photo by Fred Bellet.

Even during activity, Michael’s heart now beats in
perfect rhythm.

“Around February or March, I started having complications with my heart,” he relates. “I had uncomfortable palpitations, and I was feeling dizzy, nauseated, short of breath and a little faint here and there.”
As a young man, Michael is a very active person with a busy schedule, and he always made time to keep fit by running. When these symptoms began, they slowed him down considerably.
“The condition had an effect on my quality of life,” he admits. “I couldn’t run for long because my heart was beating irregularly. I’d be in the middle of a busy day and have to stop what I was doing.
“Sometimes, I even had to go home from my classes because I was so uncomfortable. I had all these heart palpitations, and I couldn’t catch my breath. My heart would start racing, then it would slow down. It really took a toll on my active lifestyle.”
These symptoms continued, and Michael could not live with them. He went to the emergency room at Manatee Memorial Hospital, where doctors ran several tests trying to diagnose the problem. The tests results were inconclusive, and the doctors were unable to determine a definitive cause. The ER doctor referred him to a heart specialist.
The doctor suspected Michael’s symptoms were cardiovascular, or the result of a disturbance in blood flow to the heart. Michael was prescribed medication to regulate blood flow, which gave him only partial relief.
“The medication decreased the rate at which my heart beat, but it didn’t fix the palpitations,” he states. “While my heart wasn’t racing anymore, I still had irregular heartbeats. I was still uncomfortable, and still had shortness of breath and other symptoms. The medication helped one part of the issue, but it didn’t help the other.”
Michael’s cardiologist referred him to Daniel E. Friedman, MD, a board-
certified electrophysiologist with Bradenton Cardiology Center, a practice that works closely with Manatee Memorial Hospital. An electrophysiologist is a physician who treats heart rhythm disorders. One of the most common heart rhythm problems is atrial fibrillation.
“Dr. Friedman said I had a form of atrial fibrillation called atrial tachycardia,” reports Michael. “He said the best way to fix it was to do a procedure where he goes in with electrical catheters and heats the parts of my heart that aren’t working properly. Then, they can function like they should.”

Catheter Ablation

Dr. Friedman notes that Michael was a unique case because of his age.
“Michael is a college student in his twenties, and he had nearly constant palpitations or irregular heartbeats,” describes the doctor. “He had a form of atrial fibrillation where areas around his pulmonary veins and the left upper chamber of his heart were causing almost incessant extra beats.
“This form of atrial fibrillation is the same pattern we generally see in people who have the condition later on in life. Because of his young age and debilitating symptoms, Michael was a perfect candidate for catheter ablation.”
Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure done with a catheter inserted into a leg vein and threaded up to the heart. A trained electrophysiologist uses radiofrequency energy from the catheter tip to make a small scar in the heart to eliminate the areas causing the fibrillation.
“It damages a very small area and doesn’t affect heart function at all,” assures Dr. Friedman. “We isolate the areas causing the extra or fast heartbeats. I think of it as adding a little electrical insulation to the heart, so the electricity stays where it’s supposed to stay.”

“I feel great! I’ve been completely healed of my atrial fibrillation, so that’s awesome.” – Michael

During catheter ablation, doctors conduct a study of the heart to test the normal electrical system. They also induce the abnormal heart rhythms to confirm the diagnosis. To complete these steps during the procedure, doctors at Manatee Memorial Hospital have access to a sophisticated, three-dimensional, electroanatomic mapping system.
“This mapping system is essentially a GPS for the heart,” notes Dr. Friedman. “It allows us to mark when the electricity gets to an area of the heart. Then, we can see the electricity on the system by adjusting those areas. This system enables us to actually observe the electrical conduction as it goes through its pathway in the heart.”
“I had the procedure done on the first of September. Right after surgery, I had some soreness in the area where Dr. Friedman went in with the catheter, and I had a little bit of chest pain, which he said was normal,” shares Michael. “Within the first two hours after surgery, I was up and walking around.”

Ongoing Recovery

It was just September when Michael had his catheter ablation, but he’s bounced back pretty quickly following the procedure. He’s thrilled by the results he’s achieved thus far.
“I feel great! I’ve been completely healed of my atrial fibrillation, so that’s awesome,” he enthuses. “Things like this procedure take time to heal, so I’m being cautious with my diet, the way I exercise and the way I live, but I haven’t had any sort of symptoms like I had before.
“Dr. Friedman said it’s going to be about three months before I’m functioning at one hundred percent capacity. In the meantime, I’m just being aware of how I do things, maybe not having that cup of coffee. Maybe instead of running three miles, running one then walking one. I will just keep getting better.”
Those uncomfortable palpitations are a thing of the past for Michael. He is delighted to have relief from his symptoms and the ease of the road to get there. He thinks others can benefit from hearing about catheter ablation.
“People with atrial fibrillation should consider this surgery,” he says. “It’s a minimally invasive procedure, and Dr. Friedman was very reassuring about how many times he’s performed it. Manatee Memorial Hospital was great. The staff was very helpful at all times.
“If anyone is dealing with the same things I was dealing with, I would one hundred percent recommend
Dr. Friedman and catheter ablation because they really changed my life for the better!”

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    • Manatee Memorial Hospital

      When it comes to choosing a hospital, one thing is clear: quality counts. Manatee Memorial Hospital has a long tradition of providing medical care in a comfortable and convenient environment each year for thousands of patients... Read More

    • Daniel E. Friedman, MD

      Daniel E. Friedman, MD, is a graduate of the Tulane University School of Medicine. He was awarded an internal medicine fellowship at the Mayo Clinic and cardiovascular disease fellowship at Tulane University. Dr. Friedman completed an electroph... Read More