Take Heart: New Treatment Gives Hope To Atrial Fibrillation Patients

Breathless and exhausted, 60-year-old Susan Bercan felt her heart was failing her. Cryoablation, a new treatment option for atrial fibrillation now available at University Hospitals Parma Medical Center, has breathed new life into patients like Bercan. “I was on death’s door,” says Bercan, of North Royalton. “I could not breathe, and all I did was sleep.”

Atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder affects more than 3 million Americans. It is also among the most under treated cardiac conditions, and if left untreated, gives patients a five-fold increase in stroke risk. For patients whose atrial fibrillation is no longer sufficiently managed with medication, this minimally invasive procedure ­­performed in the cardiac catheterization lab opens possibilities for patients of all ages.

In cryoablation, the abnormal cardiac tissue is frozen – rather than burned – to disable unwanted electrical circuits. The length of the procedure is only two to three hours, versus approximately six for radiofrequency ablation. Patients recover overnight in the Heart Center and typically go home in 24-36 hours.

Cryoablation is expected to decrease the frequency and severity of atrial fibrillation attacks, eliminating or reducing symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and weakness. 

“Our primary concern when treating atrial fibrillation is to return the patient’s heart to a normal rhythm, reduce the risk of stroke and improve quality of life,” says James Ramicone, DO, who partners with Bartolomeo Giannattasio, MD in performing these procedures. “We are seeing amazing results from our patients.”

The procedure is also offered at other UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute locations, including UH Cleveland Medical Center and Southwest General Health Center. 

Findings from a large clinical trial found that almost 70 percent of patients treated with cryoablation were free from its symptoms at one year, compared with 7.3 percent of patients treated solely with drug therapy. Patients who received cryoablation also displayed a significant reduction in symptoms.

Bercan was diagnosed at 47 with congestive heart failure and cardiomegaly, or an enlarged heart. She quit smoking and her heart condition was controlled for years by medication alone. But when side effects from one of the medications complicated her life, atrial fibrillation was diagnosed. 

“Now I am doing better than great,” Bercan says. 


CJ Sheppard

Senior Communications Strategist, University Hospitals Parma Medical Center

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Volume 8, Issue 10, Posted 9:56 AM, 11.03.2016