PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – You may have seen commercials for medication to treat what’s considered to be the most common heart rhythm disorder. It’s atrial fibrillation or AFib for short.
The Centers for Disease Control says as many as six million Americans may have AFib with that number expected to double by 2050. Having this irregular heartbeat means you might face a more serious health threat. As Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains, an Exeter man is recovering from a procedure that he hopes cures him of AFib.
“Lightheaded, dizzy and then just a rapid heartbeat in my chest,” said 42-year-old Dan Resciniti, Jr. Wednesday from his hospital bed. Those symptoms the Exeter man began experiencing about a year ago were caused by AFib. “So my heart was racing really, really fast and I could feel palpitations in my chest even when I was at rest.”
Dan’s AFib is believed to be the end result of a heart attack he suffered in a 2006 car crash. Geisinger Electrophysiologist Dr. Faiz Subzposh, MD said “Because of the heart attack, the architecture of Dan’s heart has changed and enlarged. When the heart chambers enlarge the wiring in the heart chambers gets a little bit more unstable and that’s why Dan has atrial fibrillation.”
Dan is unlike the vast majority of AFib patients who are older than 65. With an increasing elderly population, the number of AFib cases is on the rise. Dr. Subzposh said, “Sometimes because of a breakdown in the wiring of the heart, the electrical wiring can get wear and tear as someone moves along through life.”
Considered a progressive problem, AFib may start as heart flutters lasting a few minutes. Patients may require blood thinners or perhaps no medication at all. But as episodes become more frequent and if left unchecked, the risk of stroke or heart failure increases. Patients with persistent AFib may need an electric shock procedure called cardioversion, or an implantable pacemaker or defibrillator. In Dan’s case, he underwent atrial ablation. Dr. Subzposh explained, “We actually use a very cold balloon and we freeze right where those veins interface with the heart chamber.”
One day after the procedure, Dan feels optimistic. “It gives us the best long-term prognosis for my survival.”
September is Atrial Fibrillation Awareness Month. Doctors recommend reducing the risk of AFib by controlling such things as high blood pressure, obesity and sleep apnea.