Building a comprehensive cardiovascular program takes teamwork. For more than 100 years, Lutheran Medical Center has built a team of experts who work together to treat patients with all types of heart conditions, from heart attacks that strike suddenly to chronic issues like congestive heart failure that can weaken the heart over time.
Our team of cardiovascular specialists includes cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac-trained nurses, cardiac rehabilitation therapists and many others who combine patient-focused care with advanced technology.
Tackling Atrial Fibrillation
The convergent procedure for atrial fibrillation (AFib) exemplifies the type of advanced team care that Lutheran offers.
AFib is the most common type of heart rhythm disorder, resulting when the heart’s upper chambers beat erratically due to abnormal electrical signals. Treatment generally starts with antiarrhythmic medications and can proceed to cardioversion, which “reboots” the heart with an electrical shock. The next step is traditional ablation, in which an interventional cardiologist uses a catheter threaded through the femoral vein to target abnormal tissue on the inside of the heart with precisely applied radiofrequency energy. This creates scar tissue that electrical signals cannot cross.
“Traditional ablation has a very high success rate,” says Bohuslav Finta, MD, a Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiologist (specialist in heart rhythm disorders) at Lutheran. “However, patients with significant underlying heart disease or longstanding persistent AFib may not respond as well. This is where the convergent procedure comes to help, as it improves success rate among these patients.”
These are the patients who may benefit from the convergent procedure, which is a hybrid surgical and catheter ablation performed by Dr. Finta and cardiac surgeon Allan Brants, MD.
Working in Rhythm
“The convergent procedure requires the convergence of two specialists working together to change the heart’s rhythm,” Dr. Brants says.
The procedure starts in the operating room, where Dr. Brants accesses the heart through a small incision in the chest. Guided by an endoscopic camera, he maneuvers a radiofrequency probe around the back of the outside of the heart and makes a series of ablations, testing for abnormal electrical impulses as he goes. When he is confident that he has neutralized the tissue causing those impulses on the outside of the heart, he closes the incision.
The patient, still under anesthesia, is then moved to the cardiac catheterization lab, where Dr. Finta performs a traditional interventional ablation through the femoral vein to ablate the abnormal tissue on the inside of the heart.
Lutheran was the first hospital in the region to start offering the convergent procedure in 2019, and Drs. Brants and Finta have treated about 25 patients. The average length of stay is two or three days. The long-term published success rate for the convergent procedure in general is about 85%. Dr. Finta anticipates Lutheran will match that success rate.
“Most patients no longer have heart palpitations, they need no further ablations and they are able to discontinue antiarrhythmic medications,” Dr. Finta says.
A Strong Foundation
Lutheran’s ability to offer advanced procedures is a result of building a comprehensive cardiac care infrastructure that includes an accredited Chest Pain Center, a full open-heart surgery program and cardiac rehabilitation.
“We are constantly looking to expand the spectrum of patients we can help,” Dr. Finta says. “More than anything, it’s this kind of commitment that sets us apart from other institutions.”
We provide the best care possible for the most important muscle in your body. Whether you need a screening, a stent or support for a heart-healthy lifestyle, we’ve got you covered. Learn more at lutheranmedicalcenter.org/heart.