Doctors & patients are saying about 'A-Fib.com'...


"A-Fib.com is a great web site for patients, that is unequaled by anything else out there."

Dr. Douglas L. Packer, MD, FHRS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

"Jill and I put you and your work in our prayers every night. What you do to help people through this [A-Fib] process is really incredible."

Jill and Steve Douglas, East Troy, WI 

“I really appreciate all the information on your website as it allows me to be a better informed patient and to know what questions to ask my EP. 

Faye Spencer, Boise, ID, April 2017

“I think your site has helped a lot of patients.”

Dr. Hugh G. Calkins, MD  Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD 


Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...


"If I had [your book] 10 years ago, it would have saved me 8 years of hell.”

Roy Salmon, Patient, A-Fib Free, Adelaide, Australia

"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su,
Cavanaugh Heart Center, 
Phoenix, AZ

"...masterful. You managed to combine an encyclopedic compilation of information with the simplicity of presentation that enhances the delivery of the information to the reader. This is not an easy thing to do, but you have been very, very successful at it."

Ira David Levin, heart patient, Rome, Italy

"Within the pages of Beat Your A-Fib, Dr. Steve Ryan, PhD, provides a comprehensive guide for persons seeking to find a cure for their Atrial Fibrillation."

Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA



Drug Therapies

Eleven Things I Know About A-Fib Drug Therapy: Seldom a Lasting Cure

Anti-arrhythmic drugs are certainly better than living a life in A-Fib. They are useful for many patients. But Dr. Peter Kowey, Lankenau Heart Institute, describes them as a stopgap, i.e., they don’t deal with the underlying cause, and are seldom a lasting cure for A-Fib.

Eleven Things I Know About A-Fib Drug Therapy

Peter R. Kowey MD

P. Kowey MD

About Dr. Peter Kowey: An internationally respected expert in heart rhythm disorders, his research has led to the development of dozens of new drugs and devices for treating a wide range of cardiac diseases. (Summary of his 2014 American Heart Association (AHA) Scientific Session presentation.)

Fact #1 “An anti-arrhythmic drug is a poison administered in a therapeutic concentration.” Like most meds, anti-arrhythmic drugs, (AADs), are a trade-off between the unnatural and possible toxicity with the power to alleviate our A-Fib symptoms.

Fact #2 “Amiodarone is by far the most effective of the antiarrhythmics but is also the most toxic.” Amiodarone has never been reviewed or approved by the FDA for the treatment of A-Fib (this is called “off label” use).

Fact #3 “Doctors choose anti-arrhythmic drugs based on their relative chances of harm, not comparative efficacy.” That is. the least dangerous anti-arrhythmic first, rather than the drug most likely to suppress A-Fib.

Fact #4 “Anti-arrhythmic drug therapy is highly empiric (based on observable evidence), and exposure-related.” In practice, doctors don’t monitor how much of a drug is actually in a patient’s blood, but instead use a patient’s response to adjust dosage.

Fact #5 “Antiarrhythmics drugs require surveillance of varying intensity.” An example is Amiodarone requires intense surveillance—lungs, thyroid, eyes, liver, skin and heart.

Fact #6 “Anti-arrhythmic drugs with multi-channel effects may be more effective than those that target single channels or receptors.” For instance, in one study, ‘Pill-In-The-Pocket’ didn’t reduce A-Fib symptoms but did significantly reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

Fact #7 “Anti-arrhythmic drug therapy of A-Fib is imperfect.” It’s treatment without dealing with the underlying cause and not total eradication of symptoms.

Fact #8 “Anti-arrhythmic drug therapy can be creative.” Such as, a strategy like Pill-In-The-Pocket.

Fact #9 “Anti-arrhythmic drugs may supplement the effectiveness of other interventions like catheter ablation.” For instance, used during the 3 month blanking period following a catheter ablation.

Fact #10 “Taking anti-arrhythmic drugs does not preclude the need for stroke prevention.” For example, withdrawal of anti-coagulation therapy after a successful ablation.

Fact #11 “The holy grail is prevention.” But there is no proof that any treatment is conclusively effective.

Dr. Kowey’s Conclusions

• If doctors made better and more intelligent use of anti-arrhythmic drugs, patients would fare better and there’d be fewer ablations.

• Intelligent use requires an in-depth knowledge of pharmacology and familiarity with all aspects of clinical use, especially dosing.

• Anti-arrhythmic therapy is not perfect, but it can improve quality of life and functionality for a significant percentage of A-Fib patients.

Editors Comments:
Dr. Kowey’s statement that “an anti-arrhythmic drug is a poison administered in a therapeutic concentration” should set off alarm bells for patients. In the US, we’ve been conditioned to think “ if we’re sick, just take a pill”.
But today’s anti-arrhythmic drugs have poor success rates (often under 50%), often have unacceptable side effects, and when they do work they tend to lose their effectiveness over time.
In general, anti-arrhythmic drugs are toxic substances which aren’t meant to be in our bodies―so our bodies tend to reject them.
References for this Article

Don’t Settle. Learn Your Treatment Options


“Don’t Settle…for a lifetime on medication. Seek your A-Fib cure!”

From Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure


Treating patients with drugs but leaving them in A-Fib, overworks the heart, leads to fibrosis and increases the risk of stroke and dementia.

Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Learn your treatment options, see Which of the A-Fib Treatment Options is Best for Me? And always aim for a Cure!

 

Increased Dementia Risk Caused by A-Fib: 20 Year Study Findings

Dementia risk is “strongly associated” with younger patients who develop Atrial Fibrillation. That’s the finding of a 20-year study among 6,196 people without established A-Fib.

Rotterdam Study of Cardiovascular Disease

In a 20-year observational study of participants in the long-term Rotterdam Study, researchers tracked 6,514 dementia-free people. Researchers were monitoring participants for dementia and Atrial Fibrillation. At the start of the study (baseline), 318 participants (4.9%) already had A-Fib. 

“The Rotterdam Study” is a long-term study started in 1990 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Cardiovascular disease is just one of several targeted diseases.

Results: A-Fib and Dementia

During the course of the study, among 6,196 people without established A-Fib: 11.7% developed A-Fib
and 15.0% developed incident dementia. Other findings:

• Development of A-Fib was associated with an increased risk of dementia in younger people (<67 years old)

• Dementia risk was strongly associated with younger people (<67 years old) who developed A-Fib

• Dementia risk was not strongly associated in the elder participants who developed A-Fib.

The Rotterdam researchers didn’t state explicitly that A-Fib “causes” dementia. Instead they concluded that A-Fib was “strongly associated” with dementia. Because there may be other factors at play, that’s as far as researchers can go (though they did use regression models to adjust for age, sex, and cardiovascular risk factors).

 The younger you are when you develop A-Fib, the more important it is to seek your A-Fib cure to reduce the associated risk of developing dementia.

A-Fib Leads to or Causes Dementia

As patients we have to conclude that, all things being equal, A-Fib leads to and/or causes Dementia. This makes intuitive sense, doesn’t it?

In A-Fib we lose 15%-30% of our heart’s ability to pump blood to our brain, and to the rest of our body. Research confirms that older adults with dementia had significantly reduced blood flow into the brain compared with older adults with normal brain function or young adults.

What Patients Need To Know

The bottom line, the younger you are when you develop A-Fib and/or the longer you have A-Fib, the greater your risk of developing dementia. Seek your A-Fib cure sooner rather than later.

To decrease your increased risk of dementia, your goal should be to get your A-Fib fixed and get your heart beating normally again. We can’t say it enough:

Do not settle for a lifetime on meds. Seek your A-Fib cure.

References for this article

A-Fib-Related Stroke Risk: Watchman Better Than a Lifetime on Warfarin

Background: The most prescribed anticoagulant, warfarin, reduces the A-Fib-related risk of stroke by 60% to 70%. Most A-Fib clots (90%-95%) come from the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA).

An alternative to anticoagulants, the Watchman occlusion device closes off the LAA. FDA approved, it’s a very low risk procedure that takes as little as 20 minutes to install. Afterward, you would usually not need to be on blood thinners.

CT brain with Ischemic stroke at A-Fib.com

CT brain with Ischemic stroke

Effects of a Lifetime on Warfarin

Warfarin (brand name Coumadin) and other anticoagulants work by causing bleeding and are inherently dangerous.

Among other bad side effects, long-term use of anticoagulants such as warfarin have been known to not only cause hemorrhagic strokes, but also microbleeds in the brain leading to dementia. (For more, see Patient on Anticoagulation Therapy for 10 Years Develops Microbleeds and Dementia).

A 2015 study found evidence of microbleeds in 99% of subjects aged 65 or older. When imaging strength was magnified, even more microbleeds were detected. Microbleeds are thought to be predictive of hemorrhagic stroke.

Conclusion: according to current research, to reduce microbleeds, ditch the anticoagulants. You’d do better having a Watchman device installed than spending a lifetime on warfarin.

Note: there’s no guaranteed way to avoid a stroke altogether.

What About the New Anticoagulants (NOACs)?

Does this research apply to the new anticoagulants like Pradaxa, Xarelto, Eliquis and Savaysa/Lixiana? Technically no. This research only applies to warfarin.

But intuitively one would expect the same general principles to apply. All anticoagulants cause bleeding. That’s how they work.

Caveat—Long-Term Effects of Watchman?

Catheter positioning the Watchman occlusion device at the mouth of the Left Atrial Appendage

Catheter placing Watchman in LAA

What are the long-term effects of leaving a mechanical device like the Watchman inside the heart? We know that, after a few months, heart tissue grows over the Watchman device so that the LAA is permanently closed off from the rest of the heart.

It seems unlikely that complications would develop after a long period of time as has happened with warfarin. But we can’t say that for sure until enough time has passed. The first clinical trial installation of the Watchman device in the US was in 2009 and in Europe in 2004. So far, no long-term complications have developed.

EPs Installing the Watchman Device

Want to learn more about the Watchman? See my article, The Watchman™ Device: The Alternative to Blood Thinners.

To find EPs installing the Watchman, I highly recommend selecting an electrophysiologist (EP) who is certified in “Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology”. For a list of EPs meeting this criteria, see Steve’s Lists of A-Fib Doctors by Specialty: Doctors Installing the Watchman.

References for this article

Silent Persistent A-Fib: A Proactive Patient’s 3-Year Journey to Burden Relief

By Frances E. Koepnick, Athens, GA, June, 2017

Frances, now A-Fib free after 3 yrs.

 “I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (A-Fib) in April 2014, at age 69, while undergoing a pre-operative physical examination prior to hip replacement surgery. This was a surprising development since my A-Fib was completely “silent” with no symptoms.

My A-Fib was diagnosed as being ‘persistent’ rather than ‘paroxysmal’. These two forms of A-Fib are quite different. However, both types of A-Fib are usually treated initially with prescription drugs. I was given the beta blocker atenolol to reduce my heart rate and the anti-coagulant Eliquis to prevent the formation of blood clots.

Family History of Atrial Fibrillation

Unlike many other stories on A-Fib.com, I was familiar with Atrial Fibrillation. I am the third person in my family with A-Fib after my mother and older sister. However, they both had paroxysmal A-Fib while I was diagnosed with persistent A-Fib.

On-going studies indicate that there may be a genetic link to A-Fib.  Consequently, if someone in your immediate family has been diagnosed with A-Fib, then your risk of developing it in the future may be increased.”

Six Cardioversions: Not a Long-Term Solution

Eventually, I underwent a total of six cardioversions in an attempt to return my heart to normal sinus rhythm. Three of these procedures were electrical cardioversions and three were by means of intravenous drugs. I soon learned that cardioversion is rarely effective for maintaining normal sinus rhythm over a significant period of time.

Consequently, I did not consider it to be a long-term solution for my A-Fib.

The First Two Cardiologists Advised: ‘Just Take Your Medications and Live with A-Fib’―No! No! No!

I eventually consulted a total of five cardiologists―three in the state of Georgia, one in Manhattan and one in Bordeaux, France. I have a background in anatomy/physiology as well as microbiology, so I asked a lot of questions and managed to irritate several physicians.

“I eventually consulted a total of five cardiologists. I asked a lot of questions and managed to irritate several physicians.”

The advice of the first two cardiologists was to “just take my medications and live with A-Fib”.

If your cardiologist recommends this treatment regimen, I urge you to get a second, third or even fourth opinion.

More Interviews: Three Electrophysiologists & Lots of Questions

After my first electrical cardioversion in March 2015, my heart remained in normal sinus rhythm for only 12 hours. At that time, I had been in persistent A-Fib for one year, and was re-classified as long-term persistent A-Fib. That motivated me to pursue a catheter ablation.

I ultimately discussed an ablation procedure with three different electrophysiologists and consequently learned to ask lots of questions such as:

  • What is the percentage rate of successful ablations performed by this cardiologist/electrophysiologist?
  • What is the risk of serious complications?
  • How many ablations does this cardiologist/electrophysiologist perform at his/her facility annually? (My opinion is: “the more, the better”.)
  • What type of instrumentation is used for electrical cardiac imaging? (My opinion is the CardioInsight or ECGI/ECVUE imaging system; FDA-approved for the USA in February 2017.)

I finally located a cardiologist/electrophysiologist (EP) at a regional medical center who performed ablations for long-term persistent A-Fib.

Look for the Best EP―and Ablate Sooner Rather Than Later

At this point I had been in A-fib for 17 months. The first 7 months of this time frame was necessary due to my need for two total hip replacements which were performed 5 months apart. However, the additional 12 month delay was due to my procrastination in seeking a third opinion from another EP.  That was definitely a mistake. This additional delay reduced my success rate for a successful first ablation to approximately 65% and it also increased the chance that I might need a second ablation in the future. (I anticipated I might need a 2nd ablation because of this.)

 

“…This delay of treatment reduced my chance of a successful first ablation to approximately 65%. I anticipated I might need a 2nd ablation because of this.”

Ablation for Persistent A-Fib is More Difficult

There are many competent electrophysiologists in the USA who have been successful with ablations for paroxysmal A-Fib. However, ablations for persistent and long-term persistent A-Fib are more difficult, require a higher level of expertise, and are performed less frequently in the USA.

CHU Hopitaux de Bordeaux logoBordeaux, France: Consequently, in September, 2015 I decided to have my ablation for long-term persistent A-Fib performed in Bordeaux, France. I chose this location because it’s internationally known for its cardiologists/electrophysiologists as well as for its use of the computerized CardioInsight or ECGI imaging system. [They cured Steve Ryan’s A-Fib back in 1998.]

This arrhythmia group is headed by Dr. Michel Haissaguerre and Dr. Pierre Jais, and they perform ablations for paroxysmal, persistent and long-term persistent A-Fib. Of course, French citizens are first priority for admission, but out-of-country patients can be wait-listed.

Pierre Jais MD

Fran’s EP: Pierre Jais MD

Not Covered by My Insurance: I do need to mention that the decision to travel to Bordeaux, France, was financially significant. My medical treatment was not covered by insurance.

The Hopital Haut Leveque-Cardiologique in Bordeaux is not an impressive building. It was most likely built in the 1970s, the patient rooms are not air conditioned, and the parking lot is gravel rather than pavement. However, the French government obviously invests their health care funds in medical research, excellent physicians, quality hospital staffing, and state-of-the-art medical equipment.

“The hospital staff speak English, but I did purchase an English/French app with medical terminology for my smartphone.”

The physicians and most of the hospital staff speak English, so there really isn’t a significant language barrier problem. I did purchase an English/French app with medical terminology for my smartphone, and it was helpful on occasion. [In Bordeaux they have broken ground on the new LIRYC Institute which is intended to become one of the premier research institutions in Europe.]

Difficult Six-Hour Ablation at Bordeaux, then Electrical Cardioversions

My first ablation by Dr. Pierre Jais was a difficult procedure requiring six hours for completion. [Not only were her Pulmonary Vein openings isolated, but in addition, non-PV triggers were identified, mapped, and isolated using the CardioInsight ECGI mapping system.]

Fran wearing the mapping vest.

During the three-week time period following this ablation, two electrical cardioversions were also required. This was later explained to me by Dr. Jais as the interior of the atria needed to heal sufficiently so that scar tissue would successfully block abnormal electrical signals.

After this ablation, I continued to take the anticoagulant Eliquis and was also put on the anti-arrhythmic drug amiodarone for six months.

Normal Sinus Rhythm for 11 Months, then Atypical Flutter

I knew at the time of my first ablation that I most likely would require a second ablation due to my predicted one-year success rate of 65%.

My heart actually stayed in normal sinus rhythm (NSR) for a total of 11 months. Then I experienced three episodes of atypical atrial flutter over a two-week period, and each of these episodes resulted in an admission to the emergency room. After three intravenous drug cardioversions, I was placed back on amiodarone to maintain a normal sinus rhythm.

Suspected Sleep Apnea

After my third ER admission, I suspected that these episodes might have been triggered by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). I was waking up during the night with an extremely uncomfortable dry mouth even though my head was elevated while sleeping.

I consulted my dentist, and he referred me to a cardiologist/sleep specialist who ordered a sleep study. This study confirmed that my OAS was “severe” during periods of rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

Sleep Apnea and A-Fib: I would like to emphasize that OSA is a significant “trigger” for A-Fib. A recent study found that 43% of individuals with A-Fib also had a diagnosis of OSA.

“I suspected that these episodes might have been triggered by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a significant “trigger” for A-Fib. Of all A-Fib patients 43% are also diagnosed with OSA.”

This means that all individuals diagnosed with A-Fib need to be screened with a sleep study. If OSA is confirmed, it needs to be addressed immediately so that any future treatment for A-Fib is not compromised.

OSA can be controlled by continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines whereby you wear a face mask at night when sleeping. I decided instead to have a custom oral appliance (FDA-approved TAP3) made by a sleep dentist. This oral appliance prevents my lower jaw from moving out of position when sleeping and thereby ensures that my airway remains open.

Second Ablation by Dr. Vivek Reddy Using CardioInsight ECGI

Dr. Vivek Reddy, Mt Siani Hospital

Dr Vivek Reddy, Mt Sinai Hospital

My second ablation was performed by Dr. Vivek Reddy at Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, New York in March 2017.

I had been referred to Dr. Reddy by my doctors in Bordeaux. It was fortuitous that Mount Sinai Hospital had just obtained the FDA-approved CardioInsight (ECGI) imaging system which was previously only available in Europe.

The physicians, staff and facilities at Mount Sinai Hospital are absolutely excellent. The arrhythmia group there is headed by Dr. Reddy, and I found him to be professional, personable and comfortable answering my questions.

My second ablation was another difficult, six-hour procedure, but ultimately successful. [If interested in Dr. Reddy’s O.R. Report on Frances’ ablation, see my comments below.]

I recommend that you go online to the Mount Sinai Hospital website and then watch short informative videos on A-Fib which are presented by Dr. Reddy himself. See What Do I Need to Know About Atrial Fibrillation? (21:29).

Success & Lessons Learned

My 3-year journey with A-Fib has included numerous cardioversions, two ablations and a belated diagnosis of underlying obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

It’s now about three months since my second ablation, and I am doing well. I no longer am taking the anti-arrhythmic drug amiodarone, but continue on the anticoagulant Eliquis.

My recommendations:  Look locally, regionally, nationally and perhaps internationally in order to identify the best option for a successful ablation. (Yes, consider traveling to find the best EP for you.)

It is also important to seek an ablation sooner rather than later as a delay may decrease your chance of a successful procedure.

 Yes, consider traveling to find the best EP for you…seek an ablation sooner rather than later, a delay may decrease your chance of a successful procedure. 

Seek up-to-date information : I highly recommend the website, www.A-Fib.com for up-to-date information on A-Fib. This website is run by Steve Ryan, Ph.D. and―although he is not a medical doctor― he is an A-Fib expert who explains A-Fib in terms readily understood by the average person.

Steve also attends the AF International Symposium held annually in the USA, and his synopses of conference presentations contain the latest in A-Fib research. Steve was and continues to be my A-Fib coach.

Smartphone app: Finally, I recommend the AliveCor Kardia device ($99) and app for smartphones. This app determines your heart rate in beats per minute (BPM) and also records a 30-second electrocardiogram (ECG) using two electrodes attached to the back of your phone. Kardia’s software interprets your ECG as “normal” or as “possible A-Fib”, and you can email a copy of an ECG directly to your cardiologist. [Also see our 2016 Update: AliveCor Kardia Review by Travis Van Slooten]

I welcome your email,
Frances Koepnick
fek67@hotmail.com

Editor’s Comments:
We’re most grateful to Frances for her story. She’s a great example of a proactive patient. When told to ‘just take her meds and live with A-Fib’, she said NO! Even though she was relatively symptom-free, she knew how destructive A-Fib can be over time.
Don’t Just Live in A-Fib: Leaving patients in A-Fib overworks the heart and leads to remodeling and fibrosis which increase the risk of stroke, and also doubles the risk of developing dementia. For more read: ‘Drug Therapies’: Rate Control and A-Fib Doubles Risk of Dementia. If you hear someone tell you to just live with A-Fib, get a second opinion (or third, or fourth!).
Educate Yourself About A-Fib―Be Proactive: Frances knew she would be a more difficult case to fix. She researched who were the best EPs for her case. She asked all the right questions of the EPs she interviewed. (See Selecting a New Doctor? 10 Questions You’ve Got to Ask.) She even went to Bordeaux, France, on her own dime.
Find the Best EP You Can: All Electrophysiologists are not equal. Like Frances, don’t just settle for the nearest EP. Consider traveling to the best, most experienced EP you can afford, particularly if you have progressed to persistent A-Fib which is harder to fix. (See Finding the Right Doctor for You and Your A-Fib.)
Silent A-Fib: If You’re 65 or Older, Get Yourself Tested: Frances is lucky. She could have easily been one of the 25% of stroke victims who only discover their silent A-Fib after having a stroke. Everyone 65-years-old or older, should be tested for silent A-Fib.
Sleep Apnea: Most EPs today will insist you get tested for sleep apnea before performing a catheter ablation. Why? Patients with untreated sleep apnea have a greater risk of their A-Fib reoccurring even after a successful ablation. Also, for a lucky few, just getting rid of sleep apnea restores them to normal sinus rhythm (NSR). To learn more, see Sleep Apnea: When Snoring Can Be Lethal
CardioInsight ECGI/ECVUE System: The CardioInsight ECGI/ECVUE mapping system is probably the most significant, game changing improvement in mapping A-Fib, particularly for people with persistent A-Fib. To learn more, see Bordeaux New ECGI Ablation Protocol—Re-Mapping During Ablation.
Special 12-page report by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

FREE 12-page Report

Frances’ O.R. Report: Using the CardioInsight system, Dr. Reddy found 5 A-Fib drivers in Frances’ atria. (In typical persistent cases, 4 driver regions are usually identified. 7 drivers is the maximum found in more difficult cases.) (For you technical types, the 5 A-Fib drivers were found: at the base of the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA), the Ostium of the Coronary Sinus (CS), the posterior Left Atrium (LA), the Right Atrial Appendage (RAA) and the lateral Right Atrium (RA).)
When Dr. Reddy ablated at the base of the LAA, Frances’ A-Fib terminated. (That’s the ideal result when A-Fib terminates during the ablation.) But then Dr. Reddy checked to see if there were any other regions in her heart producing A-Fib/Flutter signals. By pacing her heart, he was able to induce Atrial Flutter (CL 380msec). Using activation mapping, he found the re-entry atrial flutter circuit was coming from the anterior inferior RA. Ablating this area terminated her Flutter.

For more about O.R. reports, see my free report: How to Read Your Operating Room Report.

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Return to: Personal A-Fib Stories

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Saturday, July 22, 2017

 

Now A-Fib Free: A Personal A-Fib Story 23 Years in the Making

It’s been a 23-year ordeal for Charn Deol who’s from Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. He was 43 in August of 1993 when he was aware of a few skipped heartbeats. He had just returned to Canada after working for years in Southeast Asia. A week later, the irregular heart beating got worse in duration.

Personal A-Fib story by Charn Deol, BC, Canada at A-Fib.com

Charn Deol, BC, Canada

At the same time, Charn’s story is complicated by two other medical problems. First, simultaneous with the start of his A-Fib, a dull aching pain started in the left chest region the size of a 50-cent piece. Second, he was discovered to have very high levels of mercury in his blood.

Mercury Cleared, Atrial Fibrillation Stops!

By 2000, through chelation therapy treatments, the mercury was finally out of his system. And surprise! His atrial fibrillation stopped too. (It is known mercury can concentrate in nerve tissue.) While it’s only a correlative relationship―mercury out of system―his atrial fibrillation did stop.

For 10 years He had No Atrial Fibrillation

In 2010, while starting a hike, the atrial fibrillation began again. The A-Fib would last 6-8 hours and occur an average of 2 times per week. He was immediately tested for heavy metals again…continue reading Charn’s A-Fib story…

Now A-Fib Free: A 23-Year Atrial Fibrillation Ordeal, Trial, Tribulations and Recovery

By Charn Deol, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, May 2017
Personal A-Fib story by Charn Deol, BC, Canada at A-Fib.com

Charn Deol, B.C., Canada

My medical issues with atrial fibrillation started when I was 43 in August of 1993 when I was aware of having a few skipped heartbeats. I had just returned to Canada having been working extensively for the last few years in Southeast Asia. About a week later, the irregular heart beating got worse in duration.

At the same time, a dull aching pain started in the left chest region the size of a 50-cent piece.

A-Fib Drugs Don’t Work, Chest Pain Condition Worse

Upon being sent to a heart specialist in September 1993, numerous drugs were prescribed to keep my heart in rhythm (digoxin, flecainide, sotalol). They did not work, some had serious side effects, and every few days I would go into atrial fibrillation.

The atrial fibrillation happened once or twice per week and lasted from a few hours to 24 hours. Then it would stop on its own, and the heart would go into normal sinus rhythm.

Second medical condition: At the same time, the very centered pain in the upper left chest area kept getting worse and added to the debilitation of daily life. These medical conditions started my long journey to find relief (cure) from two medical conditions that were not being controlled or cured by conventional medical treatments.

Alternative Healthcare Practitioners―India & China, Too

In my search for a cure(s), I met a family practitioner and other medical and alternative specialists who used treatment protocols that could be labeled ‘experimental’ or ‘out of the box’, as they say.

I was all mixed up as to what was going on in my body. This can be psychologically very distressing if you do not have a strong family/friend support network.

While discovering alternative medical treatments in 1994, I also went to India for Ayurvedic treatment [one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems] and even to China for treatment. Most alternative (non-allopathic) medical practitioners look at the body as an interconnected processing unit and believed in my case that the pain in the left chest and the atrial fibrillation were connected. This was not the thinking of the allopathic doctors, so I was all mixed up as to what was going on in my body. This can be psychologically very distressing if you do not have a strong family/friend support network.

Having been to a multitude of healthcare practitioners, numerous chiropractors, massage therapists and other more esoteric healthcare practitioners (100s over the 23 years), there was no resolution to my medical condition.

Encainide Drug Therapy: Up and Out

The heart specialist that gave me sotalol [an antiarrhythmic drug] in 1995 gave me a dose that dropped the heartbeat to 30 beats per minute putting me into the emergency room, but the drug had no effect on my atrial fibrillation.

In 1996 seeing my third cardiologist, I was put on a drug called encainide [also an antiarrhythmic drug], to be used on an as needed basis [pill-in-the-pocket].  It worked and would stop my atrial fibrillation in approximately 20 minutes.

But it had no effect on the chest pain which was getting worse now with a pain spot in the left shoulder blade area also the size of a 50-cent piece having started out of nowhere.

Encainide is a class Ic antiarrhythmic agent. It is no longer used because of its frequent proarrhythmic side effects.

About 6 months after starting on the encainide, one of my friend’s son with a heart condition since childhood passed away. And I was told he had just been started on a new drug for him called “encainide” along with “sotalol”. The same cardiologist had been providing this drug free of charge to me, so I was pleased that it worked for me and cost me nothing.

The problem I found out was that it was illegal for the cardiologist to prescribe this drug because it had killed too many people. When he got caught, then encainide was no longer available. (Encainide is a class 1C antiarrhythmic drug no longer used because of its frequent proarrhythmic effects.)

Chelation for Very High Levels of Mercury

I had the highest level of mercury ever seen by the lab in any of their patients.

While all the above was going on, I was tested for heavy metals through urine analysis. It was discovered that I had the highest level of mercury ever seen by the lab in any of their patients (7400 nmol/dl). So I started protocols to take the mercury out of my body using chelation treatments with EDTA and then DMPS and DMSA (metal chelators).

At the same time, my other medical practitioners had me on oral and IV multivitamins and mineral protocols.

Mercury Cleared, Atrial Fibrillation Stops!

By 2000, the mercury was finally out of my system and my atrial fibrillation stopped! It is known mercury can concentrate in nerve tissue. While only a correlative relationship―mercury out of system―my atrial fibrillation did stop.

Chest Pain Condition Worse than Ever

From 2000 to 2010 I had NO atrial fibrillation. But the chest pain condition did not stop, and it got worse.

From 2000 to 2010 I had no atrial fibrillation. But the chest pain condition did not stop, and it got worse extending into my gut region. All medical protocols tried could not alleviate this pain, nor was any etiology discovered as to what was the underlying cause of the pain condition.

Thanks to my resiliency, I was still able to go hiking, skiing, travel and work part-time on my own schedule. But it took great perseverance.

After 10 Years A-Fib Returns―and Heavy Levels of Lead (This Time)!

In 2010, while starting a hike, the atrial fibrillation began again. The A-Fib would last 6-8 hours and occur an average of 2 times per week.

I was immediately tested for heavy metals again, and this time I had high levels of lead, not mercury. Even with thorough investigations of potential sources for this lead contamination in my body, no source was discovered. We worked (and continue to work) on getting these lead levels down (I had no high lead levels back in the 1990’s when tested―only mercury).

Amiodarone Bad Side Effects

I again began doing alternative treatments to deal with the atrial fibrillation and the pain condition, nothing worked. I went to China again for treatments, IV EDTA infusions again, etc., but the pain persisted at high levels and the atrial fibrillation kept getting worse.

A new cardiologist put me on a new drug called amiodarone. This drug lead to paranoia. This is another cardiologist I dropped.

In 2012, I saw a new cardiologist who put me on flecainide again. And when it did not work, he provided me with a new drug called amiodarone. This drug lead to paranoia and left me with an epididymitis in my right testicle which I suffer from to this day. (Epididymitis is inflammation of the tube at the back of the testicle that stores and carries sperm.) He had no compassion for my dilemma. This is another cardiologist I dropped.

Ablation in Vancouver, B.C. Fails―A-Fib Worse and More Chest Pain

By late 2014, the atrial fibrillation was occurring on average every second day and lasting 24-38 hours.  My next cardiologist sent me to the Atrial Fibrillation clinic in Vancouver where I was evaluated by an electrophysiologist. The A-Fib was very debilitating, so I was ready for surgery.

VIDEO: Catheter Ablation For A-Fib: What it is, How it’s Done and What Results Can Be Expected

WATCH A VIDEO: Catheter Ablation For A-Fib: What it is, How it’s Done and What Results Can Be Expected (4:15)

I asked for the most experienced electrophysiologist at the clinic to do the surgery. I waited an extra 3 months for the surgery because this highly qualified electrophysiologist was in so much demand.

Finally, in November 2015 I had the ablation therapy (it took approximately 2.5 hours). I came out of the surgery worse than ever. The atrial fibrillation did not stop, and the pain was worse than ever in my left chest, left shoulder-blade and gut regions.

AV Node Ablation & Pacemaker?―No! No! No!

The electrophysiologist wanted to wait for the 6 month recuperation period after the ablation therapy to see if I would go into regular sinus rhythm. By September 2016 (9 months later), I was worse than ever. In November, I saw my electrophysiologist under the impression that he would do another ablation treatment, since I was told and with my own research had confirmed that ablation treatments may be required for up to four times for the treatment to work.

This “top” electrophysiologist recommended I have a pacemaker put in and the AV node be ablated instead, so that the pacemaker could take over the regular beating of the heart. I asked the electrophysiologist why not do further ablation treatments as per the standard practice. He said if that is what I wanted, he would do another ablation. This was quite disconcerting―I am relying on his extensive knowledge to help me in a field where I am no expert. We agreed to set up a surgical date for a second ablation on December 12, 2016.

My gut said to ‘no longer trust’ this supposed best electrophysiologist at the hospital.

Upon leaving the office and arriving home, I informed my wife of the unpleasant appointment I had with the electrophysiologist, especially his lackadaisical attitude towards my serious heart condition. As a patient, the relationship is somewhat like that of a child with a parent. The patient is naïve, scared, distraught and looking for a path of reassurance from the medical profession. This was not the case in this situation.

This is when “gut instincts” come into play. My gut said to ‘no longer trust’ this supposed best electrophysiologist at the hospital and search for an alternative path. (And I canceled my December 12, 2016 scheduled ablation.)

Counseling with Steve Ryan

Having been a reader of Steve Ryan’s website, I reached out to him and agreed for him to become my advocate and provide me with advice on how to deal with my current concerns over either going along with having a pacemaker placed in my chest along with ablation of the AV node OR to try a second ablation. Steve recommended a second ablation and the Bordeaux Clinic―it was too early to place a pacemaker/ablate the AV node at this stage.

Following this detailed discussion with Steve, I spoke with my wife and got a hold of the Bordeaux Clinic in France on December 2, 2016. With some back and forth email communication, ablation therapy was arranged for December 12, 2016. Somehow with luck and quick action, my wife and I were on an airplane to France and arrived in Bordeaux on December 10.

Second Ablation in Bordeaux and Use of CardioInsight Vest

The surgery on December 12 was done by Prof. Mélèze Hocini. Instead of taking the standard time of 2.5 to 3 hours for the surgery, it took well over 6 hours until approximately 4 pm. Dr Hocini was on her feet and exhausted.

My surgery was much more complicated than envisioned, and there were many areas that had to be ablated not only for the atrial fibrillation but also for atrial flutter.

I was informed the next day that my surgery was much more complicated than envisioned, and there were many areas that had to be ablated not only for the atrial fibrillation but also for atrial flutter. It appeared the “top” specialist I had used in Vancouver had not done his job properly. (Remember that I had been worse for the year after my first ablation).

Dr. Hocini was able to see the numerous sites leading to the atrial fibrillation/flutter in my heart due to an advanced computer assisted mapping vest (CardioInsight) which helps the electrophysiologist see in more detail cells in the heart that are acting erratically.  This system is just starting to be used in the U.S. by a few doctors. (See Bordeaux ECGI CardioInsight)

Successful Ablation—No A-Fib, But Chest Pain Condition Continues

I felt great the day after the surgery, no atrial fibrillation or flutter. Pain syndrome still there. I remained in the hospital for 4 more days and all went well, and then stayed in France for 7 more days sightseeing. No problems. I was to continue on Xarelto to keep the blood thin [for risk of stroke].

At Home A-Fib Returns with Persistent A-Flutter

Upon arriving back in Canada, the atrial fibrillation and flutter returned. Dr Hocini recommended cardioversion which I did twice but I still ended up in persistent atrial flutter with a heartbeat in the 130 range but no longer irregular.

Another cardioversion with sotalol converted my heart beat to sinus rhythm. I have now remained in rhythm since February 17, 2017.

Beta Blockers were tried to lower the heartbeat for a few weeks which did not work. Dr. Hocini recommended another cardioversion with sotalol prescribed for after the cardioversion. This was done on February 17, 2017. The heartbeat converted to sinus rhythm (65 heartbeat and was regular).

Normal Sinus Rhythm―4+ Months So Far

I have now remained in rhythm since February 17, 2017 with a quick flutter occurring once in a while. Since I am sensitive to prescription medications, I was placed on a low dose of 40 mg sotalol 2 times per day.

Minerals, Vitamin IVs for Inflammation of the Heart

With my other medical practitioners, I also had mineral and vitamin IVs during this time to help alleviate the inflammation in my heart from the surgery. I also took (and continue to take) vitamins and supplements as recommended by the other medical professionals treating me to keep the inflammation in the heart down.

Dr. Hocini had stated that since my ablation surgery was so complicated, I might have to go back to Bordeaux for another ablation. I have to get through the recommended 6 month recuperation time frame to see if the surgery has been successful. The last 3 months have me heading in the right direction of recovery.

Lessons Learned: After 23 Years with A-Fib

From this experience I’ve learned to obtain as much knowledge as possible of your condition. Trust your gut feelings if you feel uncomfortable with your surgeon. Increase your intake of nutritious foods and supplements prior to and after the surgery. Steve Ryan’s website provided me with the knowledge to make educated decisions.

If you have the funds and/or a complicated atrial fibrillation situation, please find the best surgeon you can and then still question him/her. Get a second [or third] opinion if your gut tells you to.

Doctors are just human beings with positive and negative traits like the rest of us. My first surgeon did not do his job properly in my first ablation and was flippant in his attitude in recommending a second surgical treatment.

With luck, trusting my gut instinct, educating myself, and a great family support system, I was able to find the best clinic in the world to treat me for this very debilitating medical condition.

I welcome your email if I can be of help to you.

Charn Deol, May 2017
charnee@gmail.com

P.S. FYI: My chest pain problem persists and goes undiagnosed, but that’s a story for another website!

Editor’s Comments:
Three month ‘blanking’ period: Charn’s A-Fib returned after his successful second ablation. This is quite common in more difficult cases. Your heart is ‘learning’ to beat normally again. That’s why doctors wait for at least three months before declaring your ablation a success. In Charn’s case, during the first two months, a couple rounds of cardioversions were followed by a third with sotalol prescribed after the cardioversion. This worked to get his heart back into and stay in normal sinus rhythm (NSR).
Be a proactive patient: Charn’s story is truly inspiring and an example of being proactive and not giving up. Do research yourself, get advice, and check out alternatives! We’ve been conditioned to trust doctors. Sometimes we just have to say “NO! That doesn’t make sense to me”. It’s okay to fire your doctor!
I told Charn an AV Node ablation is a treatment of last resort; it destroys the AV Node, the heart’s natural pacemaker. There’s no going back and you are forever pacemaker dependent.
Instead, I advised Charn to seek a second ablation and supplied him a list of Master EPs who routinely treat difficult, complex cases. Kudos to him for deciding to go to the Bordeaux group, considered the best in the world. [For more about Bordeaux, see my article, ‘2016 Cost of Ablation by Bordeaux Group (It’s Less Than You Might Think)’].
Chelation therapy: Chelation is FDA approved for lead removal and is the preferred medical treatment for metal poisoning. But few doctors perform chelation therapy or provide heavy metal testing. To find a doctor for these therapies, go to: http://www.acam.org. (They also do IV therapy for vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals which seems to have helped Charn.)
Amiodarone drug therapy: Amiodarone is considered the most effective of the antiarrhythmic drugs, but it’s also the most toxic and is notorious for bad side effects, including death. It’s generally prescribed only for short periods of time such as for a few months after a catheter ablation and under very close supervision. (For more about Amiodarone, see my article, ‘Amiodarone: Most Effective and Most Toxic‘.

Read our 12-page free report.

Charn’s second ablation Operating Report: Charn’s ablation was more difficult than most. He had been in A-Fib off and on for 23 years. In addition to having to work around a previous failed ablation, Dr. Hocini had to track down and ablate many non-PV triggers. Using the CardioInsight system, Dr. Hocini found A-Fib sources in the septum and in the anterior Left Atrium (LA) region, and his left and right inferior PVs had to be re-isolated.
But Dr. Hocini didn’t stop there. Using pacing again, Dr. Hocini found peri-mitral flutter in Charn’s left atrium which terminated by completing an anterior mitral line and required high energy because of the thickness of his heart tissue. Dr. Hocini had to work on Charn for six hours to the point of exhaustion.
Charn’s chest pain continues: Charn’s debilitating chest pain seemed to start when he first developed A-Fib. I’m disappointed that being A-Fib-free didn’t get rid of the pain he still experiences. I’ve never heard of pain like this coming from A-Fib. Charn has seen many doctors and tried alternative strategies to no avail.
If anyone has any ideas, strategies, or insights to help Charn’s pain, please email me.

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If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Sunday, June 4, 2017

 

 

New FAQ About A-Fib Drug Therapy: Any Guarantee Against Stroke?

The following FAQ is very timely as a close friend of mine just suffered a major stroke, even though she was on Coumadin and her INR was in the correct range. I can’t tell you how discouraging this is, not just for her but for me, too. I worked with her to get the best treatment possible and by one of the best EPs in our area. But she still had a stroke.

Q: “I’ve heard of people with A-Fib on anticoagulants who still had a stroke. What can I do to make sure I never have a stroke?”

A: There is currently no way to absolutely guarantee you will never experience a stroke. “Even when A-Fib patients are effectively anti-coagulated, 14% are still found with clots,” stated Dr. John Camm of St. George’s Medical School, London, England, at the 2008 Boston AF Symposium.

Read more of my answer: how anticoagulants can significantly lower your overall stroke risk by as much as 70%, how closing off your Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) can stop 90%–95% of A-Fib clots which usually originate in the LAA, and whether you should consider combining the Watchman with anti-coagulation… Continue reading… .

FAQ: With A-Fib, Can I Make Sure I Never Have a Stroke?

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

FAQs A-Fib Drug Therapy: Guarantee Against Stroke?

“I’ve heard of people with A-Fib on anticoagulants who still had a stroke. What can I do to make sure I never have a stroke?”

This question is very timely as a close friend of mine just suffered a major stroke, even though she was on Coumadin and her INR was in the correct range. I can’t tell you how discouraging this is, not just for her but for me, too. I worked with her to get the best treatment possible and by one of the best EPs in our area. But she still had a stroke.

There’s No Absolute Guarantee

There is currently no way to absolutely guarantee you will never experience a stroke. “Even when A-Fib patients are effectively anticoagulated, 14% are still found with clots,” stated Dr. John Camm of St. George’s Medical School, London, England, at the 2008 Boston AF Symposium.

Anticoagulants Reduces A-Fib Stroke Risk

Anticoagulants can significantly lower your overall stroke risk. When warfarin was first approved (in 1954 with brand names: Coumadin and Jantoven), it was considered a ‘wonder drug’. It reduced the risk of an A-Fib stroke by as much as 70%―a huge reduction. For the first time, doctors (and patients) had something that would work to significantly lower the risk of an A-Fib stroke.

Caution: Anticoagulants are High Risk Drugs

Be aware that anticoagulants in general are considered high risk medications. They work by causing or increasing bleeding. They aren’t like taking vitamins.

As Thomas J. Moore of the Institute for Safe Medical Practices points out, “Anticoagulant treatment for people with A-Fib ranks as one of the highest risk treatments in older Americans…more than 15% of older patients treated with blood thinners for 1 year have bleeding.”

Nevertheless, for most people, even though anticoagulants are considered high risk meds, they are a welcome trade-off to having an A-Fib stroke.

An Medication Alternative: The Watchman Occlusion Device

The Left Atrial appendage (LAA) is where 90%–95% of A-Fib clots originate. Closing off the LAA is an alternative strategy for people who can’t or don’t want to take anticoagulants. The Watchman Device (Boston Scientific), an occlusion device, is an ingenious method of closing off the LAA. (Other occlusion devices include the Lariat II and AtriClip surgical device.)

Inserting the Watchman is a very low risk procedure which takes as little as 20 minutes. Usually afterwards, the patient doesn’t need to be on an anticoagulant.

Combine the Watchman with an Anticoagulant?

One may wonder: Could combining a Watchman Device with an anticoagulant (to prevent strokes from other parts of your heart) come close to guaranteeing you will never have a stroke?

This treatment strategy is very speculative. I don’t know of any clinical studies on this subject.

However, if you have a Watchman Device installed, you could discuss with your doctor continuing on an anticoagulant as added protection.

Reference for this Article

Return to FAQ Drug Therapies
Last updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2017

 

NOAC or Warfarin for Valvular A-Fib?

Patients with ‘Valvular Atrial Fibrillation’ are often restricted from most A-Fib clinical studies and research. In particular, for NOAC trials, people with Valvular A-Fib have generally been excluded because they may have a higher rate of forming clots (e.g.: left atrial clots). 

“Valvular Atrial Fibrillation” refers to those A-Fib patients with artificial heart valves or mitral stenosis.

Like most A-Fib patients, Valvular A-Fib patients with bioprosthetic or mechanical valves have to be on an anticoagulant which up to now was restricted to warfarin. So, are the new NOACs an option?

Bioprosthetic valves are non-synthetic (usually porcine) devices used to replace a defective heart valve. Compared to mechanical valves, bioprosthetic valves are less likely to cause clots, but are more prone to structural degeneration (35% fail within 15 years).

Warfarin vs Edoxaban (NOAC)

A 2017 study showed that the Novel Oral Anticoagulant (NOAC) edoxaban (brand name: Savaysa) was safer than warfarin in preventing an A-Fib stroke in people with bioprosthetic heart valves.

Edoxaban 30 and 60 mg (Savaysa)

Edoxaban works by inhibiting factor Xa in the coagulation process. The lower dose (30 mg) was associated with a reduced rate of major bleeding, but not the higher dose (60 mg).

Compared to warfarin, edoxaban was associated with lower annual stroke rates, systemic embolic events, major bleeds, and deaths annually.

“Our analysis suggests that edoxaban appears to be a reasonable alternative to warfarin in patients with Afib and remote bioprosthetic valve implantation,” according to Dr. Robert P. Giugliano of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Edoxaban Works With Bioprosthetic Valves But Not Mechanical Ones

For the first time, research indicates that a NOAC (edoxaban) can be used for Valvular A-Fib to prevent an A-Fib stroke―but only in the case of bioprosthetic (porcine) valves.

The NOAC, Edoxaban (Savaysa), was safer than warfarin for A-Fib patients with bioprosthetic valves.

With regards to mechanical valves, the authors cited a study in which dabigatran (Pradaxa) fared poorly in mechanical valves.

What About Other Factor Xa NOACs?

What about the other ‘factor Xa inhibitors’ such as Xarelto and Eliquis? Can they be used like edoxaban? Currently there is little clinical data on this subject. But since all three are factor Xa inhibitors, most likely they will be proven to be effective in A-Fib patients with bioprosthetic valves.

What Patients Need to Know

Do you have Valvular A-Fib and a bioprosthetic valve? Are you on warfarin? If being on warfarin is difficult for you, you now have a choice of anticoagulant. Ask your doctor about switching to the NOAC, edoxaban.

Reference for this Article

Video: When Drug Therapy Fails: Why Patients Consider Catheter Ablation

For Insidermedicine.com. Dr. Susan M. Sharma discusses why patients with atrial fibrillation turn to ablation when drug therapy doesn’t work. Presenting research findings by David J. Wilber and MD; Carlo Pappone, MD, Dr. Sharma discusses the success rates of drug therapy versus catheter ablation. (See transcript below.) (3:00 min.) Published Jan. 26, 2010 on Insidermedicine.com.

 

Transcript of this video
Research Reference for this Video

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Sunday, February 19, 2017

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FAQs A-Fib Treatments: Medicines and Drug Therapies

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation patients often search for unbiased information and guidance about medicines and drug therapy treatments. These are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)

1. “ I have a heart condition. Which medications are best to control my Atrial Fibrillation?” What medications work best for me?“

2. HRT: “Do you have information about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and if it might help or hinder my atrial fibrillation?”

3. Rate Control Drug: “I take atenolol, a beta-blocker. Will it stop my A-Fib.”

Antiarrhythmic Drugs

1. “Is the “Pill-In-The-Pocket” treatment a cure for A-Fib? When should it be used?” (“Pill-In-The-Pocket” makes use of an antiarrhythmic drug such as flecainide)

2. I’ve been on amiodarone for over a year. It works for me and keeps me out of A-Fib. But I’m worried about the toxic side effects. What should I do?”

3. “Is the antiarrhythmic drug Multaq [dronedarone] safer than taking amiodarone? How does it compare to other antiarrhythmic drugs?”

4. “My doctor told me about the Tikosyn drug option that I want to consider in getting rid of my 5-month-old persistent A-Fib. That seems like something that should be discussed on your web site.”

Blood Thinners/Anticoagulants

Note: August 2015 Update: Aspirin is no longer recommended as first-line therapy to prevent A-Fib stroke.

1. “Are anticoagulants and blood thinners the same thing? How do they thin the blood?

2. Should everyone who has A-Fib be on a blood thinner like warfarin (brand name: Coumadin)?”

3. Which is the better to prevent stroke—warfarin (Coumadin), an NOAC or aspirin?

4. “I am on Coumadin (warfarin). Do I now need to avoid foods with Vitamin K which would interfere with its blood thinning effects?”

5. Are natural blood thinners for blood clot treatment as good as prescription blood thinners like warfarin?”

6. “I’m worried about having to take the blood thinner warfarin. If I cut myself, do I risk bleeding to death?

Related question: My new cardiologist wants me to switch from Pradaxa to Eliquis. if bleeding occurs, is Eliquis easier to deal with?

Related question: My heart doctor wants me to take Xarelto. I am concerned about the side effects which can involve death. What else can I do?”

7. “I”ve read about a new anticoagulant, edoxaban (brand names: Lixiana, Savaysa) as an alternative to warfarin (Coumadin). For A-Fib patients, how does it compare to warfarin? Should I consider edoxaban instead of the other NOACs?”

Post-Procedure

1. I’ve had a successful catheter ablation and am no longer in A-Fib. But my doctor says I need to be on a blood thinner. I’ve been told that, even after a successful catheter ablation, I could still have “silent” A-Fib—A-Fib episodes that I’m not aware of. Is there anything I can do to get off of blood thinners?“

2. “I just had an Electrical Cardioversion. My doctor wants me to stay on Coumadin for at least one month. Why is that required? They mentioned something about a “stunned atrium.” What is that?“

A-Fib Stroke Risk

1. “What are my chances of getting an A-Fib stroke?

2. “The A-Fib.com web site claims that an A-Fib stroke is often worse than other causes of stroke. Why is that? If a clot causes a stroke, what difference does it make if it comes from A-Fib or other causes? Isn’t the damage the same?“

3. “How long do I have to be in A-Fib before I develop a clot and have a stroke?

4. “Is there a way to get off blood thinners all together? I hate taking Coumadin. I know I’m at risk of an A-Fib stroke.”

5. “I’ve heard of people with A-Fib on anticoagulants who still had a stroke. What can I do to make sure I never have a stroke?

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Monday, May 8, 2017
Return to Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs: Does Ablation Treat Symptoms or “Cure” Atrial Fibrillation?

Catheter Ablation

FAQs A-Fib Ablations: Is it a Cure?

“I’ve read that an ablation only treats A-Fib symptoms, that it isn’t a “cure.” If I take meds like flecainide which stop all A-Fib symptoms and have no significant side effects, isn’t that a ‘cure?’”

A successful catheter ablation doesn’t just treat A-Fib symptoms, it physically changes your heart.

Isolates PVs: An ablation closes off the openings around your pulmonary veins (PVs) so A-Fib signals from the Pulmonary Veins (PVs) can no longer get into your heart. It electrically ‘isolates’ your PVs. If successful and permanent, you should be protected from developing A-Fib that originates from your PVs (where most A-Fib originates).

Recurrence Rates: Older research showed that recurrence of A-Fib after an ablation occurred at a 7% rate out to five years. But this was before the use of the newer techniques of Contact Force Sensing catheters and CryoBalloon ablation which make more permanent lesion lines around your Pulmonary Veins.

Also, people with comorbidities, like sleep apnea, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, tend to have more recurrences. Sleep apnea can cause A-Fib to develop in other parts of the heart besides the Pulmonary Veins.

Worst case scenario: But let’s discuss a worst case scenario after a successful catheter ablation. Let’s say that five years later, your A-Fib reoccurs. Usually, all that’s necessary is for a touch-up ablation to fix some gaps in the isolation burns around the openings to the PVs or other spots. It’s usually a much easier, faster procedure than your original ablation. Often, that’s all that’s necessary to keep you A-Fib free.

No Magic Pill for A-Fib: In more than 40% of cases, antiarrhythmic drugs don’t work, cause bad side effects, or lose their effectiveness over time. We don’t currently have a magic pill you can take which will guarantee to forever cure you of A-Fib.

I’m glad that flecainide works for you, but it’s not generally considered a permanent cure for A-Fib.

Catheter Ablation Only Hope of a “Cure”: The bottom line is that catheter ablation (and some surgeries) currently offers the only hope of a permanent cure of A-Fib. That doesn’t mean that all A-Fib ablations are 100% successful. Catheter ablation is a relatively new field where there is still a lot to learn. But catheter ablation is a low-risk procedure with a high rate of success. Right now, it’s the best that medical science has to offer to fix Atrial Fibrillation.

Return to FAQ Catheter Ablations

Book Review: Bad Pharma—How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors & Harm Patients

Bad Pharma by Ben GoldacreThe author of Bad Pharma does an excellent job of shining a light on the truths that the drug industry wants to stay hidden.

Those truths include how they mislead doctors and the medical industry through sales techniques, and manipulate consumers into becoming life-long drug customers. (For doctors, that industry influence begins in medical school and continues throughout their practice.)

We also learn truths about the internal workings of the medical academia, the U.S. FDA, and medical journals publishing.

The arguments in the book are supported by research and data made available to the reader. The author, Ben Goldacre, is a doctor and science journalist, and advocates for sticking to the scientific method, full disclosure and advocating for the interest of the patients. Here are a few highlights from Bad Pharma.

Manipulating Clinical Drug Trials

As consumers, how do we really know which drugs are best? The U.S. FDA protects us, right? Well sort of. Read how trials for drugs and their perceived usefulness can be manipulated, poor trials go unpublished or outright suppressed, and underperforming trials are stopped early or the trial period extended.

One way to manipulate clinical trials starts at the beginning―the design of the trial. Often, few comparison studies are done. Far more common are new drug studies going against placebo pills (that everyone knows don’t work). This helps inflate findings, makes new drugs look more effective than older drugs―because they were never compared against each other.

Bad Pharma & the Cost of Doing Business

Learn how pharmaceutical companies legitimately funnel $10 million to $20 million a year to major medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. So, are we surprised then that studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry are much more likely to get published by these influential journals?

Direct to Consumer Drug Advertising

Did you know drug companies spend twice as much on marketing and advertising as on researching and developing new drugs? (I was shocked.)

To learn how medication advertisements on TV can be misleading to consumers, see my review of “Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics” by Steven Woloshin.

Of special interest to me is the ‘Direct to Consumer’ drug advertising which has significantly increased drug sales in the U.S. ‘Direct to Consumer’ drug advertising is so misleading that it is banned in all countries except two: the U.S. and New Zealand. (No wonder that 70% of drug companies’ profit comes from the U.S.)

To be specific, I hate those misleading TV commercials that target A-Fib patients. What these ads for anticoagulants don’t tell you is:

• You are on their meds for life! (they want lifelong customers!)
• These meds do nothing to treat your A-Fib (only your risk of stroke)
• A-Fib can be cured (you don’t have to be on meds for the rest of your life)

These ads for anticoagulant medications imply if you just take their pill once a day, you’ve taken care of your A-Fib. Wrong!

Well Written, Easy to Understand

Bad Pharma, is written in an easy-to-understand manner (you don’t need a medical or science degree). If you wish, you can skim through the book to get an overview, then stop and read a topic of interest. Or you can dig in for a full read, including the authors’s research and other references (documented in footnotes with citations.)

Check on Your Doctor

After reading how big Pharma may be influencing your doctor, you can now find out. In the U.S., with the passing of the Sunshine Act (part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), we can now research if a doctor has received pharma money to prescribe their products. Just go to the Open Payments or Dollars for Doctors website.

One of our tenets at A-Fib.com, is ‘Educate Yourself’! If you want to be a more savvy consumer of health care services, I highly recommend Bad Pharma. I also recommend Ben Goldacre’s other book, Bad Science.

Bonus Idea: If you pair this book with “Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics” by Steven Woloshin, you’ll have a complete course on how the drug industry skillfully markets their products.

 

My Top 5 Articles About Warfarin Therapy, Associated Risks and Alternatives

my-top-5-picks-stamp-warfarin-400-pix-sq-at-96-res

Any treatment plan for Atrial Fibrillation must address the increased risk of clots and stroke. By far the most commonly used medicine for stroke prevention is the anticoagulant warfarin (brand name Coumadin).

But warfarin is a tough drug to take long term with monthly blood tests and possible side effects. These are my top 5 articles to help you understand warfarin therapy, the associated risks and some of the alternatives.

Review these articles to learn more about Warfarin therapy:

1. Clinical Trials Results: Watchman Better Than a Lifetime on Warfarin;

2. Arterial Calcification From Warfarin: Vitamin K May Reverse it;

3. “Is there a way to get off blood thinners all together? I hate taking Coumadin. I know I’m at risk of an A-Fib stroke.”;

4. How to Avoid the Bleeding Risk of Anticoagulants;

5. If Sixty and Older: 99% Have Microbleeds—So Are Anticoagulants Risky?

Bonus: Video about Warfarin

A-Fib.com video libraryLiving with Warfarin: Patient Education
Excellent introduction to anticoagulant therapy with warfarin (Coumadin). Patients and medical professionals (clinical nurse, doctors, a pharmacist  and clinical dietician) discuss the practical issues associated with taking warfarin. (16:22) Uploaded on Mar 7, 2011. Produced by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

An Alternative to Blood Thinners

WATCHMAN device at A-Fib.com

The WATCHMAN device

Do you hate having to take Coumadin? Hate the monthly testing? Bothered by side effects? An alternative to taking blood thinners is closing off your Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) with the Watchman, an occlusion device. Learn more: The Watchman™ Device: The Alternative to Blood Thinners.

Don’t Just Manage Your A-Fib with Meds. Seek your Cure!

Daniel Doane, A-Fib free after Mini-Maze surgery, from Sonora, California. - A-Fib.com

Daniel Doane, Sonora, CA, A-Fib free after Mini-Maze surgery,

Don’t Expect Miracles from Current Medications

Antiarrhythmic drugs are only effective for about 40% of patients. Many patients can’t tolerate the bad side effects. When drugs do work, over time, the they become less effective or stop working. According to Drs. Savelieva and Camm:

“The plethora of antiarrhythmic drugs currently available for the treatment of A-Fib is a reflection that none is wholly satisfactory, each having limited efficacy combined with poor safety and tolerability.”

Drugs don’t cure A-Fib but merely keep it at bay.

Learn All Your Treatment Options

To start, educate yourself about Atrial Fibrillation and review all your treatment options on our page: Treatments for Atrial Fibrillation.

Next, move on to the guidelines we’ve posted: Which of the A-Fib Treatment Options is Best for Me? Then, discuss these treatment options with your doctor. This should be a ‘team effort’, a decision you and your doctor will make together.

Don’t just manage your A-Fib. Seek your Cure.

Reference for this article

Don’t Take Any Medication Without Asking These 10 Questions

Before taking any prescription drug to treat your Atrial Fibrillation, you should educate yourself about the drug. We’ve prepared the top 10 questions you should ask your doctor. As a service to our readers, we offer the questions as a free PDF worksheet you can Download. It has convenient spaces to write down your doctor’s replies for later review.

Print as many as you need and take a copy to every doctor appointment (you never know when you’ll need one). Download our worksheet (and don’t forget to save to your hard drive).

Before Starting a Prescription Drug, Ask These Questions

Use our worksheet as a guide as you ask these questions of your doctor or healthcare professional, and note their responses:

Download our Free Worksheet

1. Why am I being prescribed this medication?
2. What are the side effects of this drug?
3. Are there any precautions or special dietary instructions I should follow?
4. Can it interfere with my other medications?
5. What should I do if I forget a dose?
6. How long before I know if this drug is working?
7. How will I be monitored on this drug? How often?
8. What happens if this drug doesn’t work?
9. What if my A-Fib symptoms become worse?
10. If I don’t respond to medications, will you consider non-pharmaceutical treatments (such as a Pulmonary Vein Isolation procedure)?

Keep your medical records in a binder or folder. at A-Fib.com

Keep your medical records in a binder or folder.

Your A-Fib Binder or Folder

When completed, file the worksheet in your A-Fib binder or file folder to use for future reference and follow-up.

Your A-Fib binder is where you should file and organize all your A-Fib-related treatment information: printouts of information from the internet and your local public library or medical center library, notes from phone calls with doctors’ offices, and answers to “interview” questions during doctor consultations.

Research Any Prescription Drug 

To determine if the prescription is the right one for you, do your research. An excellent prescription database is the U.S. National Library of Medicine Drug Information Portal. (For an example, see the page on Warfarin [Coumadin].)

Also see the free worksheet: Keep an Inventory List of Your Medications


Worksheet from Chapter 6 of Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure, by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

Stubborn A-Fib Returns Again and From Unusual Areas

We first posted Marilyn Shook’s personal A-Fib story, “Pill-In-the-Pocket” for Five Years, then Catheter Ablation for a Cure (#25) in 2008. She then sent us updates in 2014, 2015 and now her latest update after a third ablation in late April 2016. Marilyn’s A-Fib appears to find new and unusual places to originate from.

Marilyn Shook - A-Fib story at A-Fib.com

Marilyn S.

In her lasted installment, Marilyn writes:

“It’s been a few weeks since my third PVA [Pulmonary Vein Ablation] and I am doing  well.

Just to jolt your memory―I had my first PVA in 2007 and did well for 7 years. But my A-Fib returned in 2014 and was documented by a tiny Medtronic Reveal LINQ cardiac monitor implant. A second PVA followed in October of 2014.

I was A-Fib free until February 2016 when A-Fib/Flutter returned. I opted for my third PVA, which was performed in April 2016 by Dr. David Haines at Beaumont Hospital.

Marilyn Shook is also an A-Fib Support Volunteer who lives near Detroit, MI.

My Third Ablation and Post-Ablation Complication

Under general anesthesia, my PVA was extensive work but completed in about 4 hours. I was in sinus rhythm before and after the procedure. After my ablation, I was awake, alert and responsive and then suddenly became unresponsive, with thready pulse, blood pressure plummeted.

I was having a post PVA complication―a cardiac tamponade―an emergency situation!…”

Continue reading about Marilyn’s third ablation and her medical emergency->.

Editorial: Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!

Recently I corresponded with a fellow who just found out he was in “silent” Atrial Fibrillation with no symptoms.

I commend his family doctor for discovering he was in A-Fib during a routine physical. Otherwise, he might easily have had an A-Fib stroke. (Of those with untreated A-Fib, 35% will suffer a stroke.) We don’t know how long he might have been in A-Fib before being diagnosed.

I wish I could commend his cardiologist too, but I can’t. His cardiologist just put him on the rate control drug, diltiazem, and left him in A-Fib.

That is so wrong for so many reasons!

Rate control drugs aren’t really a “treatment” for A-Fib. They slow the rate of the ventricles, but they leave you in A-Fib.

Rate Control Drugs Don’t Really “Treat” A-Fib

Rate control drugs aren’t really a “treatment” for A-Fib. Though they slow the rate of the ventricles, they leave you in A-Fib. They may alleviate some A-Fib symptoms, but do not address the primary risks of stroke and death associated with A-Fib.

Effects of Leaving Someone in A-Fib

A-Fib is a progressive disease.

Leaving a patient in A-Fib can have long-term damaging effects with disastrous consequences. Atrial Fibrillation can:

• Enlarge and weaken your heart often leading to other heart problems and heart failure.

• Remodel your heart, producing more and more fibrous tissue which is irreversible.

• Stretch and dilate your left atrium to the point where its function is compromised.

• Lead to progressively longer and more frequent A-Fib episodes and within a year can progress to chronic (continuous) A-Fib.

• Increase your risk of dementia and decrease your mental abilities because 15%-30% of your blood isn’t being pumped properly to your brain and other organs.

I’m So Angry at Doctors Who Just Leave Patients in A-Fib!

I can’t tell you how angry I am at cardiologists who want to leave people in A-Fib.

Even if a patient has no apparent symptoms, just putting them on rate control meds and leaving them in A-Fib can have disastrous consequences (and verges on malpractice).Don't Settle for a lifetime on medication April 2016 600 x 935 pix at 300 res

What Patients Need to Know

The goal of today’s A-Fib treatment guidelines is to get A-Fib patients back into normal sinus rhythm (NSR).

Treatment options includes antiarrhythmic drugs, chemical and electrocardioversion, catheter ablation and mini-maze surgery.

Unless too feeble, there’s no good reason to just leave someone in A-Fib.1

Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Learn your treatment options. And always aim for a Cure!

Footnote Citations    (↵ returns to text)

  1. A cardiologist may cite the 2002 AFFIRM study to justify keeping patients on rate control drugs (and anticoagulants), while leaving them in A-Fib. But this study has been contradicted by numerous other studies sinse 2002.

New FAQ: Risks of Xarelto and 3 Alternatives to Anticoagulants

We’ve posted a new FAQ and answer about the risks of anticoagulants and three alternatives to taking them.

“I have A-Fib, and my heart doctor wants me to take Xarelto 15 mg. I am concerned about the side effects which can involve death. What else can I do?”

You are right to be concerned about the side effects of Xarelto, one of the new Novel Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs). Uncontrolled bleeding is the primary risk (patients have bled to death in the ER.)

Be advised: No anticoagulant will absolutely guarantee you will never have a stroke.

All anticoagulants are inherently dangerous. You bruise easily, cuts take a long time to stop bleeding, you can’t participate in any contact sports; there is an increased risk of developing a hemorrhagic stroke and gastrointestinal bleeding. (Most EPs are well aware of the risks of life-long anticoagulation.)

Anticoagulants cause or increase bleeding. That’s how they work. To decrease your risk of blood clots and stroke, they hinder the clotting ability of your blood. But, they also increase your risk of bleeding. But in spite of the possible negative effects of anticoagulants, if you have A-Fib and a real risk of stroke, anticoagulants do work.

What Else Can You Do? Remove the Reason for an Anticoagulant—Three Options

The best way to deal with the increased risk of stroke and side effects of anticoagulants is to no longer need them. Here are three options…<…continue… to read my full answer…>

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