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


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Ira David Levin, heart patient, 
Rome, Italy

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


A-Fib Pause: To Pace or Not to Pace…That is the Question

I’ve posted about my A-Fib retuning last Fall and subsequently having a Medtronic Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor (ICM)—one of the world’s smallest cardiac monitors—inserted just under the skin near my heart. Each night my Reveal Linq wireless monitor transmits that day’s data by wireless connection to my EP, Dr. Shephal Doshi.

Surprise—I Didn’t Feel a Thing

One morning in the week following my successful RF catheter ablation, at 6:27 am unbeknownst to me, my Linq recorder captured this episode—a seven-second pause:

The ECG signal strip is a graphic tracing of the electrical activity of your heart.

The next morning Dr. Doshi was on the phone telling me to come into the office immediately. He showed me the printout, and I was amazed.

In this second graphic, called a scatter plot, you can clearly see the dots representing the pause (outlined by a red box). The differences between consecutive R-wave intervals reveal patterns in the rhythm.

Scatter plots use horizontal and vertical axes to plot data points. Here the differences between consecutive R-wave intervals are plotted in order to reveal patterns in the rhythm.

Wow, 7-seconds—that’s a huge pause! It’s no wonder Dr. Doshi and his office called me the next day. He wanted to install a pacemaker right away and scheduled it for a week later. He also told me not to drive a car.

Remember: Your Best Patient Advocate is You

Unlike when I had A-Fib back in 1997, this time I wasn’t feeling any dizziness during the day.

At A-Fib.com, we always encourage you to be your own best patient advocate (which can include your spouse or partner. too.) And to not blindly follow your doctor’s advice. Always educate yourself. So I read up on pacemakers.

What is a Pacemaker?

In this instance, pacemakers are used to treat a slow heartbeat in people with A-Fib. It’s a small device that monitors your heartbeat and sends out a signal to stimulate your heart if it’s beating too slowly. The device is made up of a small box called a generator. It holds a battery and tiny computer.

Source: Pacemaker illustration from solarstorms.org

Source: Pacemaker illustration from solarstorms.org

Very thin wires called leads connect the pacemaker to your heart. Impulses flow through the leads to keep the organ in rhythm. There are also “leadless” pacemakers which are entirely installed inside your heart.

Installing a Pacemaker: The doctor programs and customizes the pacemaker for each patient to help keep their heart in rhythm. The surgery to put in the device is safe, but there are some risks, such as bleeding or bruising in the area where your doctor places the pacemaker, infection, damaged blood vessel or collapsed lung. You may need another surgery to fix it.

Life with a Pacemaker: Sometimes the impulses from a pacemaker cause discomfort. You may be dizzy, or feel a throbbing in your neck.

Once you have one put in, you might have to keep your distance from objects that give off a strong magnetic field, because they could affect the electrical signals from your pacemaker like metal detectors, cell phones and MP3 players and some medical machines, such as an MRI

In general, it is a permanent installation—you’ll have it for the rest of your life.

VIDEO: Traditional and Leadless Pacemakers Explained. Peter Santucci, MD, is a cardiologist with Loyola University Medical Center; he describes the traditional pacemaker and it’s installation using graphic animations.Then compares with the miniaturized leadless version. 2:30 min. Posted by Loyola Medical. Go to video.

Considering a Pacemaker: Pros and Cons

Patti and I discussed the pros and cons of a pacemaker.  In this instance, my heart was beating too slowly. But that’s normal for me. Because of years of running and exercise, my resting heart rate is in the high 50s, which is very low compared to others with A-Fib.

The three-month “blanking” period following my ablation is when my heart is healing and learning to once again beat in normal sinus rhythm. That’s why it’s common for A-Fib to recur during this time.

Illustration showing placement of the Medtronic Mica leadless pacemaker

Illustration showing placement of the Medtronic Mica leadless pacemaker

It doesn’t mean your ablation was a failure—think of it like planting a fruit tree. The tree might not produce fruit right way, but give it time to acclimate, absorb the nutrients in the soil, to grow stronger and bask in the sun. So I’m giving my heart some time, too.

Hitting the Pause Button on a Pacemaker for Now

In the meantime, I haven’t had another pause and have remained A-Fib free. I am hoping that this 7-second pause was a one-time thing and that my heart will stay in normal sinus rhythm in the months to come.

Dr. Doshi wants to install a “leadless” pacemaker which would be entirely installed inside my heart. Having that installed is a big step for me, one that I’ll have to live with for the rest of my life.

So, I decided to wait on having it installed. I’ll reconsider a pacemaker after my 3-month blanking period is behind me.

I’ll keep you posted on the status of my A-Fib post-ablation.

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