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A-Fib Patient Story #33

Pulmonary Vein Isolation/Ablation For Chronic A-Fib at Provo, Utah by Dr. Chun Hwang

By Ed, March 2009

I was treated by Dr Chun Hwang at the Central Utah Clinic and Utah Intermountain Hospital in Provo, Utah.

I am writing this to reassure others with atrial fibrillation (intermittent or chronic) that the ablation procedure (also called PVI or pulmonary vein isolation) is a safe, effective and painless technique which is better than treatment with drugs. As I understand it, treatment of A-Fib with rhythm controlling drugs is not ideal, because of the dangers and side effects of these drugs and generally their poor performance. While treatment with drugs to control only the rate of A-Fib accepts the deleterious effects of A-Fib and requires chronic anticoagulation with warfarin (Coumadin) to prevent atrial appendage clot formation and possible embolization to the brain (stroke).

I contacted Dr Hwang by letter in November 2008 and a week later his secretarial staff called me and gave me the appointment date/time for a CT scan of the chest and a consultation with Dr Hwang. Of course they also requested copies of my pertinent medical history. The waiting time to see Dr Hwang was 3 months. I received an information package a week before the appointment, and a glance at Google Maps was helpful for finding the hospital and clinic parking lots in Provo.

I went to Provo a day early and found the Cotton Tree Best Western motel quite comfortable, located a half mile from the medical facilities. My CT scan appt was at 2PM and consisted of changing into a scrub top, having an IV started and having blood drawn for kidney function tests so the contrast media would not cause any ill effects. About 2:30PM I was taken into the CT room and told how to position my arms for the 4 1/2 minute CT scan in an open machine. Several deep breaths and a warm feeling from the contrast media, then it was over.

Dr Hwang was punctual and spent about 15 minutes with me after having reviewed my records and the CT scan. He said he would do the ablation, answered my questions and instructed me be admitted to the hospital the following day.

That next day I skipped breakfast and was admitted and taken to a private room on the cardiac telemetry ward where skilled nurses started an IV, put a pulse oximeter on my finger and hooked up the deck of cards sized wireless telemetry transmitter.
Shortly thereafter one of the male RNs from Dr Hwang’s lab came for me with a wheel chair, and in the lab 4 or 5 other male RNs made me welcome with various skin patches, some shaving, IV tubing and positioning adjustments on the operating table. Sleep came without warning, and the ablation was done.

I awoke in the private room on the cardiac telemetry ward in no pain or discomfort with a urinary catheter in place. Under sedation I recall several nurses making visits to my room, blood pressure checks, etc for the next 4 to 5 hours. Then when I was able to stand and converse, the catheter was removed and I was allowed to go to the BR. Dr Hwang came by, and a few hours later I had dinner. I slept well; and the following day Dr Hwang visited me again, gave me my instructions (no lifting or straining for several days) and prescriptions (including one for warfarin for 6 weeks) and discharged me. I was driven back to the motel where life continued as though nothing had happened.

I hope anyone considering the ablation procedure might be encouraged by my experience and that they can then resume normal life without the anxiety of never knowing when A-Fib will recur or a stroke become evident.

I will respond to anyone who emails me for more information. Thanks to the author of this website…a marvelous asset.

Ed
ewjili (at) hotmail.com

Editor’s comment: Dr. Hwang is one of the pioneers of A-Fib ablation in the Western US. He has done over 2000 ablations. He also works at Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on an as needed basis.

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