Slowing a Speeding Heart
At times, Marilyn Swanson’s heart would suddenly race out of control, as if someone were stomping the gas pedal. While the condition called arrhythmia was not immediately life-threatening, it became so unnerving that Marilyn feared going anywhere alone.
The turnaround came after she moved from Passau, Germany, to Iowa City. While playing bridge with an old college friend, she received some encouragement. The friend, James Martins, MD, a cardiologist with UI Heart and Vascular Center, felt the condition might be fixable.
“At the time I thought if we could diagnose the problem and more importantly figure out a way to interrupt the arrhythmia, it would make a substantial improvement in the anxiety felt about when it would happen again,” says Martins.
Martins and a team of UI Heart specialists subsequently diagnosed the source of the arrhythmia. The team then used a radiofrequency ablation to destroy a small, troublesome area of heart tissue. This ended Marilyn’s scary racing heart episodes.
“I’m free of my anxieties and I live like a normal person again,” she says. “It’s really great.”
- Very common abnormal heart rhythm
- Harmless unless lightheaded or near passing out
- Doctor’s evaluation can make the difference between unnecessary anxiety and confidence
Radio Frequency Ablation
Radio frequency ablation is just one minimally invasive options used by UI heart specialists to treat some types of rapid heartbeats. During the procedure, doctor’s guide a catheter into the heart, then transmit a painless, radiofrequency energy to destroy carefully selected cells. This stops those cells from giving off electrical signals that stimulate the irregular and fast heartbeat.