Heart specialists at the Heart Center at St. Mark’s are once again first in Utah to collaborate in order to help patients with persistent, long-standing atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AFib. This time, the specialists have expanded their unique partnership approach to include “convergent ablation” as an innovative option for people with the most difficult to treat AFib.

These heart specialists are among only a limited number of specialists nationwide who are combining their expertise to offer one of the most advanced AFib treatments available today. This team approach is significantly improving the lives of patients challenged with the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia, who have not responded well to catheter ablations and other treatments.

How it Works:

The Convergent approach combines a surgical ablation of the back wall of the heart with internal ablation of the pulmonary veins using the most advanced heart mapping technologies available. The cardiovascular surgeon and the cardiac electrophysiologist work as a team during one procedure to perform the ablations on a beating heart.

  • The surgeon makes three small (0.5-1 inch) incisions in the abdomen under the ribcage and inserts an endoscope through the diaphragm that provides a clear view of the outside of the heart
  • Via the endoscope and a surgical ablation tool, the surgeon places a series of ablations (controlled burns) in specific locations on the outside surface of the heart
  • The cardiac electrophysiologist then threads a catheter through the femoral vein in the groin to the inside of the heart and fills in gaps with more burns in areas that the surgeon cannot reach on the outside surface.
  • The combined series of connected burns more effectively creates solid lesions (scar tissue) that block the storm of chaotic electrical signals that cause AFib.
  • Ablation completeness ensures substantially better outcomes for patients with persistent AFib.
  • Before the procedure is completed, the EP conducts additional tests to confirm that the abnormal signals have been eliminated and regular heart rhythm is restored.

Patient Benefits

  • Provides a treatment option for patients who fit the following criteria:
    • Chronic, continuous or difficult to treat atrial fibrillation
    • Other AFib treatments and ablations have not been successful
    • Cannot undergo hybrid ablation due to lung disease or other medical conditions
  • Integrated patient care provided by AFib specialists with complimentary expertise
  • Faster and less invasive option; external and internal ablations performed sequentially during one general anesthesia session
  • Combined approach reduces overall procedure times
  • Decreased stay in the hospital and quick recovery

While convergent ablation is a new option in Utah and other states, it has been conducted approximately 2,000 times worldwide. Success rates for the combined convergent ablation procedure are better than for less invasive options.

The heart specialists at the Heart Center at Heart Center at St. Mark’s were also first in the state to pioneer the advanced hybrid ablation procedure for AFib in 2013.That minimally invasive procedure also combines surgical ablations on the outside of the heart and a catheter ablation over the course of a few days during one hospital stay.

If you think a convergent ablation might be right for you, call (801) 266-3418 to schedule an appointment.