Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cardiac Catheter Ablation

One person requested more information about catheter ablation, so I thought I'd add include more information about my experience here.

My diagnosis was atrial flutter. If I understand correctly, the electrical activity in the upper right chamber of my heart was short-circuiting. This caused tachycardia (rapid heart rate), fatigue and light-headedness. Other types of arrhythmias or dysrhythmias occur in the upper left chamber or lower chambers of the heart.

I found an interesting recount of an ablation for atial-fibrillation here. This web site includes a number of interesting links for more information. Although this man is a resident of San Francisco, his procedure was performed at Stanford Hospital also which makes me think that Stanford may be the only hospital in this area with the technology and expertise for the procedure.

On Janurary 8th of this year, I experienced a prolonged episode of tachycardia and took an ride to the emergency room in an ambulance. Dr. Neil Sawhney, a cardiologist, examined me there and diagnosed atrial flutter. He used drugs to restore a normal heart rhythm and prescribed a beta blocker to prevent tachycardia in the future. He urged me to have a catheter ablation.

I experienced unpleasant side effects from the beta blocker (asthma, fatigue, insomnia, an itchy rash) and was eager to schedule the ablation procedure as quickly as possible. The procedure has a 90 to 98% success rate.

The doctor who performed my procedure at Stanford is Dr. Sung Chun who is in private practice in Palo Alto. He's reputed to be one of the best and I have no argument with that characterization.

Anyone who would like additional information can contact me personally at kittylover at gmail dot com or post a message to this blog.

Note: If you are a woman, doctors may dismiss your symptoms. As noted on Michael Roeder's web site:

Why does my doctor keep telling me it’s just in my head?
How can I put this? Bluntly. It’s probably because you’re a woman and your doctor doesn’t take you seriously. I know that sounds mean, and it is an outrage. I don’t think it’s in your head. I noticed a disturbing trend in the e-mails I’ve received in the first few years after I started this web site. Women were always telling me the
same story: The doctor says it’s all in your head so don’t worry about it. Several ended up in the emergency room with tachycardia before anyone believed them. I’ve talked to women at work and they concur that this treatment of women is a serious and widespread problem in our culture’s health system. (In Europe, Australia, and in North America.) Sad to say, our medical culture treats women as overly sensitive children ruled by their emotions. I don’t know what can be done about it, except to try to articulate your symptoms accurately. Lately things seem to have gotten a little better: Maybe doctors are getting the message and taking women's symptoms as seriously as men's.

Good health to you all.