University Of Kentucky One Of First To Use New Technique To Treat Atrial Flutter

September 22, 1998

Last year, a minor earthquake erupted inside Johnnie Beavers' chest.

But yesterday, in a Kentucky medical first, physicians at the University of Kentucky Hospital used an experimental new technique called "microwave ablation" to calm the tremors in Beavers' heart, and give him back his breath.

During a non-surgical procedure lasting more than four hours, doctors directed microwave radiation -- the same kind of energy produced in home microwave ovens -- to "ablate," or make tiny burns, inside the upper chamber of the patient's heart.

The treatment was designed to block or destroy electrical pathways in the heart that were firing erratically and causing the upper chamber of the heart to quiver -- a condition called "atrial flutter."

Efforts to control it with conventional therapy had failed. But late yesterday UK officials termed the new treatment a success. They said that Beavers, 45, a music teacher, should be able to return to his Matewan, W.Va., home today.

It was the first time that microwave ablation -- approved by the FDA for study only in late August -- has been used outside California, where the first 10 or 12 procedures were performed. UK is one of five U.S. medical centers studying the technique.

UK's Dr. Andrea Natale, who treated Beavers and is a principal investigator on the study, says that, if early results hold up, microwave ablation could be an important alternative for patients whose atrial flutter defies traditional therapies.

Beavers just hopes it will give him his old life back. Until last year, he was a high school band director in West Virginia. But he had to quit after atrial flutter struck.

"I know now that I've had the problem for years, but it didn't get really bad until last year," he said shortly before the surgery. "I was so short of breath I almost didn't get through our homecoming parade. A few days later I went to the hospital, and they put me right in intensive care. It was pretty scary."

Atrial flutter is one of several different heart arrhythmias. By some estimates, it accounts for 5 percent of all emergency room visits. While not usually life-threatening in itself, flutter can limit work or other physical activities, and it may increase risk for stroke.

In some cases, atrial flutter can be treated with drugs. But last year, UK's Natale published a study showing that a form of ablation that used radio waves was more effective than medication. Now, he says the new ablation technique using microwaves may be even better.

In both techniques, a catheter is threaded through blood vessels from the groin into the heart.

In the older method, radio-frequency radiation was passed through the catheter, causing its tip to heat up. By touching the heated tip to appropriate areas in the heart, doctors could "turn off" any misfiring electrical circuits and stop the atrial flutter.

But in some patients -- particularly larger people with large hearts -- the heat failed to reach some deeply buried circuits, which allowed the atrial flutter to come back.

In the experimental method used yesterday, the catheter's tip contains an antenna that emits a small field of microwave energy. It is this energy that heats up the surrounding heart tissue -- even without touching it -- and shuts off the malfunctioning electrical pathways.

Natale, who heads UK's electrophysiology program and is an internationally recognized expert on ablation, says that using microwaves could make atrial flutter treatment a one-time proposition.

"Now, when we use radio waves to treat atrial flutter, the problem comes back in about 10 percent of the cases," he said. "But with microwaves, we might have to do it only once. It could make ablation much more effective."

Microwave ablation was developed by Fidus Medical Technology Corp. of Fremont, Calif. Teresa Mitchell, a senior vice president with the company, says that Massachusetts General Hospital, New York Hospital at Cornell University, the University of California at San Diego, and Sequoia Hospital in Redwood, Calif., are studying the technology along with UK.

Meanwhile, Johnnie Beavers hopes he's said goodbye forever to "feeling like my heart was flip-flopping around like it was going to jump out of my chest. I'm just looking forward to having a day when I can say I felt good all day long." The affliction

Microwave ablation is intended for patients who have atrial flutter, a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart tremble or flutter, instead of beating. It causes shortness of breath, and may pose an increased risk of stroke. Atrial flutter accounts for up to 5 percent of all emergency room visits. The condition also can be treated with drugs, or with another type of ablation that uses radio waves.


University of Kentucky Medical Center

Related Radio Waves Articles from Brightsurf:

Remembrance of waves past: memory imprints motion on scattered waves
Now, it appears that between relativity and the classical (stationary) wave regime, there exists another regime of wave phenomena, where memory influences the scattering process.

Evolution of radio-resistance is more complicated than previously thought
Radio-resistance in bacteria first evolves through the adaptation of DNA repair mechanisms, however as evolution continues more mutations accumulate, and more cellular metabolic processes are affected.

Astronomers detect regular rhythm of radio waves, with origins unknown
Astronomers detect a regular pattern of radio bursts from 500 million light years away.

Radio: The medium that is best dealing with the COVID-19 crisis
During lockdown, the Media Psychology Lab, directed by Emma Rodero, a lecturer with the UPF Department of Communication, has conducted a study on the listening habits, consumption, credibility and psychological impact of the radio in the COVID-19 crisis.

Inexpensively locating friendly (and unfriendly) radio waves
Electrical engineers at Duke University have devised a low-cost method for passively locating sources of radio waves such as Wi-Fi and cellular communication signals.

Scientists explore the power of radio waves to help control fusion reactions
New research points to improved control of troublesome magnetic islands in future fusion facilities.

Radio waves detect particle showers in a block of plastic
A cheap technique could detect neutrinos in polar ice, eventually allowing researchers to expand the energy reach of IceCube without breaking the bank.

A fast radio burst tracked down to a nearby galaxy
Astronomers in Europe, working with members of Canada's CHIME Fast Radio Burst collaboration, have pinpointed the location of a repeating fast radio burst (FRB) first detected by the CHIME telescope in British Columbia in 2018.

Alternative material for superconducting radio-frequency cavity
In modern synchrotron sources and free-electron lasers, superconducting radio-frequency cavity resonators are able to supply electron bunches with extremely high energy.

Fast radio burst pinpointed to distant galaxy
In a rare feat, astronomers have pinpointed the place of origin of a fast radio burst, with a surprising outcome.

Read More: Radio Waves News and Radio Waves Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to