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


Catheter Ablation

2020 AF Symposium: Terminate Persistent A-Fib by Ablating Higher Frequency Modulation Areas

2020 AF Symposium

Terminate Persistent A-Fib by Ablating Higher Frequency Modulation Areas

by Steve S. Ryan

Background: Previous studies by Dr. Jose Jalife, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.:
• A-Fib Produces Fibrosis—Experimental and Real-World Data: Dr. Jose Jalife’s ground-breaking research studies with sheep demonstrated conclusively that A-Fib produces fibrosis;
Experiments in Atrial Remodeling in Sheep and the Transition From Paroxysmal to Persistent A-Fib: Dr. Jalife’s later research showed how A-Fib progresses in time from paroxysmal to persistent A-Fib.

Jose Jalife MD

At this year’s AF symposium, Dr. Jalife presented findings by research colleagues showing how leading-driver regions of A-Fib have higher frequency modulation (iFM) areas which, when ablated, usually terminate persistent A-Fib.

His presentation was entitled “Using Instantaneous Amplitude and Frequency Modulation to Detect the Footprint of Stable Driver Regions as Targets for Ablation of Persistent AF.” Dr. Jose Jalife, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Clinical Study

Researchers have used sheep and pigs in previous studies. This time to detect rotors in sheep, researchers developed algorithms based on amplitude modulation (iAM) and frequency modulation (iFM).

They then switched to pigs who underwent high-rate atrial pacing to develop persistent A-Fib.

Frequency modulation (iFM) /instantaneous amplitude modulation (iAM) approach to patients with persistent atrial fibrillation

Using the PentaRay Catheter (Biosense Webster) to produce high-density electroanatomical atrial mapping, they found that regions of higher than surrounding average iFM were considered leading-drivers.

These iFM areas also had the highest dominant frequency. “They are the footprints of rotors.”

Not all rotors are drivers. Only those with the highest frequency and greater stability are A-Fib drivers. “IFM helps identify the regions with the highest frequency drivers.”

Researchers constructed two leading-driver + rotational-footprint maps (rotors) 2.6 hours apart from each other to test for stability and to guide ablation. Leading-driver regions remained in approximately the same spots in each map.

The trial showed high iFM areas are responsible for maintaining persistent A-Fib

Study Results

When these areas were ablated, persistent A-Fib terminated in 12 of the 13 cases (92.3%). Rotational-footprints (rotors) were found at every leading-driver region, but not all rotors had higher iFM. “In pigs, ablation of leading-driver regions usually terminates persistent A-Fib and prevents its sustainability.”

Conclusion

Dr. Jalife concluded that high iFM areas are responsible for maintaining persistent A-Fib. And using iFM results in higher sensitivity and specificity without the need for high resolution and costly panoramic mapping.

Editor’s Comments:

(I had never heard of the term “frequency modulation” (iFM) applied to A-Fib before.)
High Areas of iFM a New Discovery in A-Fib: The researchers have re-defined the field of mapping and catheter ablation.
This research shows that higher regions of iFM help identify the regions with the highest frequency drivers (rotors) and are more easily mapped in persistent A-Fib.

Dr. Jalife and his colleagues have given EPs and researchers a new tool to better ablate persistent A-Fib, the most difficult arrhythmia to fix.

Resource and Footnote
Dr. Jalife added: “The work I described in my presentation was not mine, but the result of a team effort led by a young Spanish physician and scientist named David Filgueiras Rama. David trained with me a few years ago but now has his own independent laboratory at the National Cardiovascular Research Center (CNIC) in Madrid, Spain. The idea of using iFM modulation to localize drivers was an inspiration of Jorge Quintanilla who is the first author in the paper you have cited. Together, Jorge and David generated the hypothesis, designed the experiments and wrote the paper. My roll was primarily advisory, and I helped with the final draft of the manuscript. Thus, I was only acting as a messenger at the AF Symposium.

Quintanilla, JG et al. Instantaneous Amplitude and Frequency Modulations Detect the Footprint of Rotational Activity and Reveal Stable Driver Regions as Targets for Persistent Atrial Fibrillation Ablation.  Circ Res. 2019 August6 30; 125(6):609-627. Epub 2019 Aug 1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31366278  doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.119.314930.

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New FAQ: What is Atypical Flutter?

“I have Atrial Flutter that my EP describes as “atypical”. What does that mean? Is it treated differently than typical Flutter? (I’ve had two ablations, many cardioversions, and a Watchman installed to close off my LAA.)”

Atrial Flutter is similar but different from Atrial Fibrillation. Atrial Flutter is characterized by rapid, organized contractions of individual heart muscle fibers (see graphic below).

In general, there are two types of Atrial Flutter:

• Typical Flutter (from the right atrium)
• Atypical Flutter (can come from anywhere)

Typical Flutter originates in the right atrium (whereas A-Fib usually comes from the left atrium).

Atypical Flutter can come from anywhere and is one of the most difficult arrhythmias to map and ablate.

To learn more, read my full answer, go to: I have Atrial Flutter that my EP describes as “atypical”. What does that mean?”

A-Flutter usually comes from the right atrium (A-Fib usually comes from the left atrium).

 

2020 AF Symposium: Protecting the Esophagus by Cooling It

2020 AF Symposium

Protecting the Esophagus by Cooling It

Mark Gallagher. MD

“We know that most strategies (to prevent fistula) don’t work,” Says Dr. Mark Gallagher from St. George’s University Hospital in London, United Kingdom.

At the 2020 AF Symposium, he described an innovative strategy he and his colleagues developed to prevent fistula. He presented the completed IMPACT study which investigated whether Attune Medical’s ensoETM esophageal cooling system could effectively reduce the incidence and severity of thermal injuries to the esophagus during cardiac ablation.

What is Atrial Esophageal Fistula?
Atrial-Esophageal Fistula is the worst complication of a catheter ablation. Unlike most other ablation complications, this can kill you.

What is Atrial Esophageal Fistula? During an ablation, heat from the RF catheter applied to the back of the heart can damage the esophagus which often lies just behind the posterior wall of the left atrium. (This can also happen to some extent with Cryo ablation.)

How Atrial Esophageal Fistula can kill You: If RF heat damages the esophagus, ulcer-like lesions form in the esophagus. Then 2-3 weeks post-ablation, gastric acids (reflux) can eat away at these lesions creating a fistula (hole) from the esophagus into the heart. Without major intervention, blood can pump from the heart into the esophagus leading to death.

IMPACT Double Blind Randomised Controlled Trial

In their clinical trial, Dr. Mark Gallagher and colleagues divided 120 patients into two groups: a control group and a experimental group.

IMPACT stands for Improving Oesophageal Protection During Catheter Ablation for Atrial Fibrillation.

The Control Group: The control group received only standard care, in this case a temperature probe in the esophagus. If the temperature in the esophagus went too high, they would stop the ablation till the temperature went back down (current practice).

This would often lead to the EP not being able to effectively isolate all A-Fib signal areas in the heart which were too close to the esophagus. And often, by the time the temperature went up, damage had already been done to the esophagus.

The Experimental Group: Patients in the second (experimental) group instead received a 3-foot long silicone soft tube in their esophagus connected to what was basically a refrigerator. This closed loop system pumped cooled water (25  ͦ F) down one loop of the tube, then back through another loop to the console whenever the EP worked near the esophagus. The EP controls the temperature.

Double-Blind for Both Operators and Evaluators

This was a double-blind study. The EP doing the ablation didn’t know if they were working on a Control or Experimental patient. And the doctors evaluating the procedure for possible esophagus damage also were blinded.

After 7 days, an endoscopy was performed on each patient’s esophagus (an endoscopy examines the inside of an organ). They were looking for lesions and for gastroparesis (delayed emptying of the stomach).

IMPACT Study Results

The Control group who received the standard temperature probe had multiple epithelial lesions, while the Experimental group who experienced the closed loop cooling system had only one minor lesion.

The Experimental group also needed less fluoroscopy (X-ray) time. And, more importantly, the EP was able to ablate longer in areas near the esophagus (such as the posterior wall of the left atrium). That improved the success rate of the ablation and ablation efficacy.

Editor’s Comments

Most fistula patients die. And for those who live through the emergency treatment, they are often compromised for life. But with the esophageal cooling system, patients and doctors may never again have to worry about the dreaded complication Atrial-Esophageal Fistula!
Cooling the Esophagus, a Major Medical Breakthrough! Cooling the esophagus is simple and relatively easy to do. And, barring future research findings, it seems full proof.
The Attune Medical’s ensoETM esophageal cooling system is certainly cheaper than having to care for patients with a fistula.

The Attune Medical ensoETM esophageal cooling system can provide both cooling during RF ablation, and heating during Cryo ablation.

Probably among the major proponents of the esophagus cooling system will be hospital administrators. Treating patients with a fistula is a huge expense and a nightmare for hospital staff.
A fistula is an all-hands-on-deck emergency involving not just the EP department but surgeons and many hospital staffers. A surgeon may have to perform emergency surgery to insert stents in the esophagus in order to close off the fistula, or the surgeon may have to cut out part of the damaged esophagus, which is particularly risky
(I remember one EP describing how he and his staff were running down a hospital corridor with their fistula patient close to dying, in order to get the patient to an operating surgeon.).
Esophageal Cooling Means Better Ablations: And as a bonus, using the esophageal cooling system enables EPs to do a more thorough better job. They can ablate all areas of the heart rather than avoiding areas too close to the esophagus or using lower power with shorter duration or less contact force.
When Will Esophageal Cooling be Available? For catheter ablation application, probably not soon. In the U.S and probably worldwide, Attune Medical’s ensoETM esophageal cooling system is already in use and approved for specific purposes, for example, in cases of brain damage where a patient needs to have their whole body cooled down. But not for catheter ablation
In the United Kingdom, it will first have to be approved by NHS. In the U.S., it may not need to go through the FDA approval process again. (But this is a very speculative observation.)

Will Ablation Centers Implement? It will probably require a great deal of marketing to make EPs and ablation centers aware of and actually start using the esophageal cooling system. And because Atrial-Esophageal Fistula is such a rare complication, centers may not be willing to invest in an esophageal cooling system.

References
If you are looking for Dr. Mark Gallagher’s talk in the AF Symposium brochure, it was not listed. It was presented on Friday, January 24, 2020 in the session “Advances in Pulmonary Vein Isolation (Session II.)”

See also Zagrodzky, J. et al. Fluoroscopy Reduction During Left Atrial Ablation After Implementation of an Esophageal Cooling Protocol. AFS2020-03 AF Symposium brochure abstract, p. 28. St. David’s South Austin Medical Center, 2020.

Late-Breaking Clinical Study Evaluates Attune Medical’s ensoETM for Use During Cardiac Ablation Procedures. EPDigest. February 3, 2020. https://www.eplabdigest.com/late-breaking-clinical-study-evaluates-attune-medicals-ensoetm-use-during-cardiac-ablation-procedures

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2020 AF Symposium: After Diagnosis, How Soon Should an A-Fib Patient Get an Ablation?

2020 AF Symposium

After Diagnosis, How Soon Should an A-Fib Patient Get an Ablation?

by Steve S. Ryan

When you were diagnosed with A-Fib, did your doctor say, “Let’s wait a year or two and try different drugs before we send you for a catheter ablation.” Is this attitude justified by current research?

Karl-Heinz Kuck, MD

Dr. Karl-Heinz Kuck of St. Georg Hospital in Hamburg, Germany discussed this most important topic for patients in his presentation “ATTEST Trial―Impact of Catheter Ablation on Progression from Paroxysmal to Persistent AF.”

Heavy Decision for Electrophysiologists (EPs): When to Ablate

Dr. Kuck started by describing how he personally is affected by the strategic decisions he has to make every day. As an EP, “when should we ablate a patient with A-Fib?” Should we just look at symptoms (not considering anything that is caused by A-Fib).

Will this decision contribute to a patient moving into persistent forms of A-Fib?

This happens all too often―within one year, 4% to 15% of paroxysmal A-Fib patients become persistent.

Persistent A-Fib Patients at Higher Risk

Patients who progress to persistent A-Fib are at a higher risk of dying, they have more risk of stroke, it’s more difficult to restore them to normal sinus rhythm.

In the Rocket AF trial, the mortality rate of persistent A-Fib was triple that of paroxysmal patients.

ATTEST stands for “Atrial Fibrillation progression randomized control trial“

ATTEST: RF Ablation vs Antiarrhythmic Drugs

The ATTEST clinical trial included 255 paroxysmal patients in 36 different study locations. They were older than 60 years and had to have been in A-Fib for at least 2 years (mean age 68). They had failed up to 2 antiarrhythmic drugs (either rate or rhythm control).

Patients were randomized to two groups: radiofrequency ablation (RF) (128) or antiarrhythmic drugs (127). They were followed for 3 years (ending in 2018).

ATTEST Findings: RF Ablation vs Antiarrhythmic Drugs

At 3 years, the rate of persistent A-Fib or atrial tachycardia was lower (2.4% ) in the RF group vs the antiarrhythmic drug group (17.5%).

The RF group was approximately 10 times less likely to develop persistent A-Fib compared to the antiarrhythmic drug group.

For patients in the antiarrhythmic drug group, 20.6% progressed to persistent A-Fib or atrial tachycardia compared to only 2.2% in the RF group.

Recurrences occurred in 49% of the ablation group vs. 84% in the drug group. Repeat ablations were done on 17.1% of the ablation group.

Dr. Kuck’s Conclusion

Early radiofrequency ablation was superior to antiarrhythmic drugs to delay the progression to persistent atrial fibrillation among patients with paroxysmal A-Fib.

His advice: “Ablate as early as possible.”

Editor’s Comments

Don’t Leave Someone in A-Fib―Ablate as Early as Possible: Dr. Kuck’s ingenious research answers once and for all whether or not A-Fib patients should be left in A-Fib, whether seriously symptomatic or not (e.g., leaving A-Fib patients on rate control drugs but still in A-Fib.)
These patients are 10 times more likely to progress to persistent A-Fib. That’s why today’s Management of A-Fib Guidelines list catheter ablation as a first-line choice. That is, A-Fib patients have the option of going directly to a catheter ablation.
Know Your Rights—Be Assertive: I occasionally hear of Cardiologists who refuse to refer patients for a catheter ablation, who tell patients a catheter ablation is unproven and dangerous.
When you hear something like that, it’s time to get a second opinion and/or change doctors.
As an A-Fib patient, you should know your rights and be assertive—that according to the guidelines, you have a right to choose catheter ablation as your first choice.
Your doctor may try to talk you into first trying antiarrhythmic meds before offering you the option of a catheter ablation. That is so wrong!
 Why risk progressing into persistent A-Fib? There are so many bad things that can happen to you when left in A-Fib. As Dr. Kuck points out, you’re at a higher risk of dying, there’s more risk of stroke, it’s more difficult to restore you to sinus.
And we haven’t even talked about heart damage from fibrosis, the risk of electrical remodeling of the heart and, the all-too-real dangers of taking antiarrhythmic drugs over time.
Thanks for Sharing, Dr. Kuck! I am particularly grateful to Dr. Kuck for sharing his own anxieties and decision-making strategies when trying to determine when a patient should get a catheter ablation, how this affects him personally.
Making decisions about patients whom one cares about isn’t always easy. But Dr. Kuck’s research should now make these decisions easier both for EPs and for patients.

The Bottom Line for Patients: It’s safer to have an ablation than to not have one. For more see my article Live Longer―Have a Catheter Ablation!

References
ESC 2019: Catheter ablation may be up to 10 times more effective than  drug therapy alone at delaying AF progression.  Cardiac Rhythm News. September 2, 2019, 3634.

Dobkowski, Darlene. ATTEST: Radiofrequency ablation superior to antiarrhythmic drugs for AF progression. October 10, 2019. Healio, Cardiology Today. https://www.healio.com/cardiology/arrhythmia-disorders/news/online/%7B5fa2c711-a459-4c62-bb46-8fad6c69c9ea%7D/attest-radiofrequency-ablation-superior-to-antiarrhythmic-drugs-for-af-progression

Kuck, K-H. Late-Breaking Science in Atrial Fibrillation 1. Presented at: European Society of Cardiology Congress; Aug. 31-Sept. 4, 2019;

Paris Peykar, S. Atrial Fibrillation. Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute/Sarasota Memorial Hospital website. Last accessed Jan 5, 2013. URL:http://caifl.com/arrhythmia-information/atrial-fibrillation/↵

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2020 AF Symposium: “Virtual Heart” Assists Actual Ablations

AF Symposium 2020

“Virtual Heart” Assists Actual Ablations

by Steve S. Ryan

We have previously described the innovate, exciting work of Prof. Natalia Trayanova of Johns Hopkins Un. in Baltimore, MD. See ‘3D Virtual Heart’ Predicts Location of Rotors (2017 AF Symposium) and The Virtual Heart Computerized Simulation (2015 AF Symposium).

N. Trayanova, MD

At the 2020 AF Symposium, Prof. Natalia Trayanova of Johns Hopkins University presented “Computationally Guided Personalized Targeted Ablation for Persistent AF.” This computerized model is used to simulate an individual patient’s heart. This ‘Virtual Heart’ can then be used to guide an individual patient’s therapy.

Significant for Persistent A-Fib: For patients with Persistent Atrial Fibrillation, this computerized model is especially important. In a simple case of A-Fib, ablating/isolating the Pulmonary Veins (PVs) is usually all that’s necessary to restore a patient to sinus.

But with persistent A-Fib, it’s frequently required to do more than isolate the PVs. Persistent A-Fib patients often have fibrosis (fibrotic substrate) which perpetuates re-circulating electrical waves (rotors). The Virtual Heart identifies these fibrotic areas which sustain A-Fib.

How the Virtual Heart Works

Dr. Trayanova and her team start by doing an MRI scan. Then they hyper-enhance segments which correspond to areas of fibrotic remodeling in a patient’s heart.

The next step is to develop a computational mesh that incorporates representations of ion channels, calcium cycling and other electrophysical aspects of an individual’s atria. All this is incorporated into patient-specific geometry of the model.

Virtual-Heart-OPTIMA-approach-flowchart.

What the Model Can Reveal: They run the model to see what the arrhythmia looks like.

• Does the fibrotic substrate anchor rotors in particular locations?
• What are the spatial characteristics of the regions where they are located?
• Can these spatial metrics guide where the proper ablation should be?
• Can we reliably predetermine ablation targets?

Dr. Trayanova’s team merges these virtual atria with an advanced imaging technology (CARTO 3 System) to predict where the catheter should ablate.

The “Virtual Heart” Identifies Rotors: Prof. Trayanova found that re-entrant drivers (rotors) persisted in areas of higher fibrosis density and entropy (lack of order or predictability). They didn’t persist in regions of non-fibrotic sites and regions of deep fibrosis. The Virtual Heart is designed to completely eliminate the ability of the fibrotic substrate to sustain A-Fib.

Dr. Trayanova compared the predictive ability of her models to actual ECGI mapping cases from the Bordeaux group. Overall, her prediction of where rotors would be found coincided with where rotors were actually found by ECGI.

First-In-Human Virtual Ablation

Dr. Trayanova made major news when she announced the first-in-human clinical study of her Virtual Heart system! The first ten patients were part of an FDA approved clinical study of 160 persistent A-Fib patients called OPTIMA―Optimal Target Identification via Models of Arrhythmogenesis.

These ten patients had MRI heart scans which showed the fibrosis/scarring in their hearts.

This is a personalized approach tailored for each patient. The amount and structure of fibrosis is different in each individual.

Schematic summarizing the process of importing OPTIMA ablation targets into CARTO.

Creating Digital 3-D Models: Dr. Trayanova and colleagues then created digital 3-D models (Carto) and duplicated digitally the substrate and areas of fibrosis in individual patients.

They filled this model with digital virtual heart cells which mimicked and became a computerized duplicate heart. This digital heart behaved just like that individual patient’s real heart.

This digital heart behaved just like that individual patient’s real heart.

Then, they stimulate/pace the virtual heart electrically in many different locations to see where a stimulus produces an irregular heartbeat or rotor.

Rounds of Virtual Ablation: At this point, they performed several rounds of virtual ablation to digitally ablate those areas. Again, they tested to see if the digital ablation scars generated sites of emergent activity.

By the third round, there are no more hidden areas that can cause abnormal electrical signals. “We repeat the process till the substrate is no longer inducible for AF.” This also targets latent atrial arrhythmias, such as those that might emerge following initial ablation.

The Patient’s Digital Model: Finally, they export the digital model of the patient’s heart with all the A-Fib sites/rotors marked for the EP doing the actual ablation. In the EP lab, the EP uses this map to guide the catheter to the areas that need to be ablated.

Success of First Ten Patients

Persistent A-Fib patients, in general, are the most difficult to return to normal sinus rhythm. Around 50% of these patients have recurrences and have to return for additional ablations (which often cause yet more scar tissue).

Of Dr. Trayanova’s first 10 persistent patients in the OPTIMA procedure, only one patient had to return for a Flutter ablation (this was mostly because they ran out of time during the first ablation). In particular, all the rotor sites were correctly identified and ablated.

Editor’s Comments:

Persistent A-Fib patients are perhaps the most difficult to make A-Fib free.
Today, it’s common for even the best Master EPs to bring back persistent A-Fib patients for a second and even a third ablation before restoring them to sinus.
This may change with deployment of the Virtual Heart system.
The Virtual Heart system extensively and repeatedly maps where all A-Fib signals are coming from in a particular patient’s heart. With this mapping, the EP knows exactly where to ablate, including “hidden” areas which could emerge after a preliminary ablation, and areas that would cause electrical misfiring in the future.
Very important, with the Virtual Heart ablation there is no or very little recurrence of A-Fib.
The Virtual Heart system represents a major breakthrough in the treatment of persistent A-Fib patients.
The potential of Dr. Trayanova’ s research for A-Fib patients is incredible!
Imagine getting an MRI and knowing where your A-Fib is coming from, how your A-Fib affects and works in your heart both now and in the predictive future, how various A-Fib drugs can be expected and predicted to affect your heart, how much and what kind of fibrosis you have, how you can expect your fibrosis to progress and affect you over time, what therapies should be done in your particular case.
Imagine…if you need a catheter ablation, your EP knows exactly where to ablate in your heart.
Imagine…being able to accurately predict whether or not or how fast you will progress from paroxysmal to persistent A-Fib.
Imagine…all based on computer models that mirror your own heart.

Dr. Trayanova’s research has the potential to radically change the way A-Fib is treated. Almost all the uncertainties EPs and A-Fib patients now have to deal with can potentially be eliminated with the virtual computer reconstruction of individual A-Fib hearts.

References
Trayanova, N. A. Custom Cardiology: A Virtual Heart for Every Patient; Personalized computer models will let cardiologists test life-saving interventions. IEEE online, 28 Oct 2014. Accessed Feb 26, 2015, URL: http://www.ieee.org/about/index.html

Scudellari, Megan. Personalized Virtual Hearts Could Improve Cardiac Surgery―Digital replicas of patients’ hearts can identify hidden, irregular heart tissue for surgeons to destroy. IEEE Spectrum, August 22, 2019 / 12:00 GMT https://spectrum.ieee.org/the-human-os/biomedical/imaging/virtual-hearts-improve-cardiac-surgery

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2020 AF Symposium Live Case: Ultra-Low Temperature Cryoablation

AF Symposium 2020

Live Case: Ultra-Low Temperature Cryoablation

Background: The Adagio Medical iCLAS catheter is a Cryo catheter that uses ultra-low temperatures and is unlike anything currently on the market. To learn more about the iCLAS catheter, see my earlier report from the 2018 AF Symposium: Innovative iCLAS Cyro Catheter by Adagio Medical.
Note: The Adagio Medical iCLAS is not yet FDA approved. The U.S. IDE study trial is active and enrolling. The clinical trial started in December 2019. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04061603.

Live Ablation Via Streaming Video

Tom DePottee, MD

Live from Belgium, Dr. Tom De Potter and his colleagues from OLV Hospital performed an ablation using Adagio Medical’s ultra-low temperature cryoablation catheter.

When the Symposium audience joined the live ablation via streaming video, Dr. De Potter and his colleagues had already performed a single transseptal puncture and were working in the left atrium.

Several catheter configurations possible with the Adagio Medical system.

To produce temperatures as low as (minus) –196° Celsius, Adagio Medical uses what they call Near Critical Nitrogen (NCN) which is far lower than current CryoBalloon technologies.

Producing Continuous Linear Ablations

Adagio catheters produce continuous linear ablations and can also be configured to do focal (single point) catheter lesions. Dr. De Potter also showed how the same Adagio Medical catheter can also do cryo mapping.

As we watched, Dr. De Potter encircled the Left Superior Pulmonary Vein (PV) with a double loop catheter. Then applied the cryo energy and froze the ostium area to isolate the PV. The catheter stylus included a loop of the freezing section and a loop with electrodes which recorded/mapped the A-Fib signals.

Freezing Isolated the Vein

We could see the ice formation on the catheter itself and how the freezing isolated the vein.

Adagio catheter encircles PV and freezes to isolate the PV area.

It only took 30 seconds to isolate that vein, but Dr. De Potter continued the freeze for one minute. Then performed what he called a bonus freeze.

On the catheter monitor, we could see how that vein had PV potentials which were then isolated.

Then Dr. De Potter moved to the Right Pulmonary Veins. The phrenic nerve usually runs close to the ostia of the right PVs. He said they perform phrenic nerve pacing to prevent damage to the phrenic nerve. We saw how they performed phrenic nerve capture.

Monitoring the Phrenic Nerve

If they do find they might be damaging the phrenic nerve, they don’t ablate there or insert a different catheter stylus configuration which doesn’t affect that area.

They didn’t achieve isolation of the Right Interior PV, so they did a second ablation while slightly changing the stylus loop position. Dr. De Potter said that he usually achieves isolation with one pass, except for, as in this case, with the Right Interior PV which is more challenging.

Protecting the esophagus with the Adagio Medical Warming Balloon (right of heart)

CryoAblation is Reversible. Dr. De Potter showed how they first used low energy cryo in a 30 second ablation to see if the phrenic nerve was affected (if affected, the tissue can be de-frosted and returned to normal or reversed.) Then they applied the full cryo energy at the ultra-low temperature which is permanent. The speed of decrease in cooling is very fast at 300°C/sec.

Protecting the Esophagus

To protect the esophagus, Dr. De Potter showed how they insert a warming balloon with constantly circulating warm saline into the esophagus which prevents excessive cooling and damage to the esophagus.

He stated that the next generation of the warming balloon will also have temperature sensing. They can then have a much better idea of what the freezing will do to the esophagus, how much temperature affects will be seen in the esophagus.

Ablating the Posterior Wall 

Dr. De Potter also showed the Adagio Medical system ablating the posterior wall. “It’s very simple. We will make overlapping rings.”

We saw him make those overlapping ring ablations in three passes which blocked conduction over the posterior wall. But with a larger atria, he may use 6 applications. He mentioned that at this stage he hasn’t achieved consistent success making a Mitral Isthmus line.

The Key Benefit of Ultra-Low Temperature Cryoablation

According to Dr. De Potter:

“The key benefit of this technology is a different energy source in contrast to the CryoBalloon which uses a theoretical minimum of –80°C.

This system (Adagio Medical) uses liquid nitrogen which has a theoretical minimum of –196°C. When you consider that this –80°C is at the center of the balloon and not necessarily at the tissue, we think we have a far better margin for efficient energy delivery while providing for patient safety.”

Editor’s Comments:

When I visited the Adagio booth at the Symposium exhibit hall, I was fascinated to see how easily the catheter can be manipulated into many different configurations depending on the lesions which need to be made.
Using its full length, the catheter can produce ultra-low temperatures along its whole span (110mm). Its 20 electrodes can also produce cryo-mapping of the atria.
Why is the iCLAS Cryo catheter special and innovative? The iCLAS catheter produces ablation lesions like current CryoBalloon catheters but at lower temperatures (colder). One would expect that such ultra-low Cryo lesions would be deeper, more transmural, and more lasting.
In addition, the ability to produce unlimited shapes gives the iCLAS catheter a unique ability to position Cryo lesions in a variety of locations in the heart.

The Adagio Medical iCLAS cyro system will make ablations much simpler and easier for EPs. It may eventually supersede normal CryoBalloon ablation (which is already a very effective ablation strategy).

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2020 AF Symposium: 5 Abstracts on Pulsed Field Ablation

The 2020 AF Symposium abstracts are one-page descriptions of A-Fib research, both published or unpublished. The abstracts are supplemental to the Symposium live presentations, panels discussions and spotlight sessions. This year the printed digest contained 55 abstracts. I choose only a few to summarize.

My Summaries of Select PFA Abstracts

Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) was the single most important topic at this year’s Symposium. I summarized five of the PFA abstracts of most interest to A-Fib patients.

Lesion Durability and Safety Outcomes of Pulsed Field Ablation
The durability of PFA lesions is the focus of Dr. Vivek Reddy’s abstract. His research study followed 113 patients who each received a PFA ablation.

Pulsed Field Ablation with CTI Lesions Terminates Flutter in a Small Study
The use of Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) may significantly improve CTI ablation lesions to block the Flutter signal. (CTI: Cavo-Tricuspid Isthmus)

Durability of Pulsed Field Ablation Isolation Over Time: Preliminary Study
Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) is a new treatment. This study asked the question of whether PFA electrical isolation (lesions) regresses over time.

Pulsed Field Ablation vs RF Ablation: A Study in Swine 
PFA is “tissue-specific”. This study tested if surrounding non-heart tissue (the esophagus) would be affected. PFA ablation was compared to RF ablation. Swine (pigs) were used so tissue could be dissected and examined.

Using MRI to Check Pulsed Field Ablations (PFA)
Normally, during a RF or cryo ablation, doctors move the esophagus as far away as possible from where they are ablating. In this study they took no such precautions.

My Summary Reports

For more from the 2020 AF Symposium, go to My Summary Reports Written for A-Fib Patients. Remember, all my reports are written in plain language for A-Fib patients and their families.

2020 AF Symposium Abstract: Pulsed Field Ablation Follow-Up Study

2020 AF Symposium Abstract

Pulsed Field Ablation Follow-Up Study

Dr. Vivek Reddy, Mt Siani Hospital

Dr Vivek Reddy, Mt Sinai Hospital

Background: At the 2020 AF Symposium, Dr. Vivek Reddy demonstrated an ablation using Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA). Radically improving ablation treatment, PFA is:
• Tissue selective; affects heart tissue only and not other structures or organs.
• Very fast and precise; long-lasting lesions can be delivered in seconds.
• No direct contact needed only proximity, i.e., millimeters from the targeted tissue.
• Safer than current ablation energy sources, primarily because of its tissue selectivity.
• Offers two catheter shapes designed to fit into various areas of the heart.

But Does Pulsed Field Ablation Endure Long-Term?

The durability of PFA lesions is the focus of Dr. Vivek Reddy’s abstract, Lesion Durability and Safety Outcomes of Pulsed Field Ablation. His research study followed 113 patients who each received a PFA ablation.

Study Description: Patients were enrolled in 3 multi-center clinical trials which used a biphasic PFA waveform with a basket/flower catheter configuration.

Dwell time’ is the time transpiring from introduction of the ablation catheter into the body to the catheter’s removal.

Five EPs were chosen to do the PFA ablations. The 88 most recent patients were ablated. They were not under general anesthesia. PFA procedures required around 33 minutes of Left Atrium (LA) dwell time.

Follow-up Testing and Results: At 75-90 days, patients were invasively re-mapped.

Then, after 1 year, the Pulmonary Vein (PV) lesions were re-assessed and safety re-examined.

All PVs remained isolated. The primary safety event rate was 1.8% (1 pericardial tamponade, 1 groin hematoma).

The esophagus was carefully evaluated. There was no evidence of thermal esophageal lesions.

Cerebral MRI revealed no post-procedure swelling (ischemia). There was no PV stenosis. There were no latent safety issues. Invasive re-map procedures showed that lesion durability of the Pulmonary Veins reached 98%.

Study Conclusion

The researchers concluded that Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) demonstrated:

• An excellent safety profile, no unexpected safety issues over a full year of follow-up.
• A very high rate of long-term Pulmonary Vein isolation (durable lesions).

So Does Pulsed Field Ablation Endure Long-Term? Yes!

Editor’s Comments

A year’s follow-up demonstrated that Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) is a significant improvement over current ablation treatments. And these extraordinary results were obtained by 5 operators, which means that PFA is not dependent of the skill of a particular electrophysiologist.
I predict that Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) will supersede all current ablation strategies. It’s almost too good to be true.

Unfortunately, it will probably take 3-5 years for PFA to be available for most A-Fib patients.

References for this report
Reddy, V. et al. Lesion Durability and Safety Outcomes of Pulsed Field Ablation in > 100 Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation Patients. AF Symposium 2020 brochure, Abstract AFS2020-19, p. 44. Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

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2020 AF Symposium Abstract: Using MRI to Check Pulsed Field Ablations (PFA)

2020 AF Symposium Abstract

Using MRI to Check Pulsed Field Ablations (PFA)

by Steve S. Ryan

Background: Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) is a new treatment for Atrial Fibrillation with some unique features. First, the ablations are tissue-specific, only affecting heart tissue and not the surrounding organs. Second, instead of direct contact to make lesions, as with RF ablation, all that’s necessary is proximity to the targeted tissue to make the ablation.

Pierre Jaïs, MD, The Bordeaux Group

In a remarkable statement that would strike terror in the heart of most Electrophysiologists (EPs), the French Bordeaux group stated about Pulsed Field Ablations:

Measures to alter lesion placement based on proximity of the esophagus and phrenic nerve were not taken.”

Normally, during a RF or cryo ablation, doctors move the esophagus as far away as possible from where they are ablating. In this study they took no such precautions.

Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) study

Farapulse catheter – Five Petal Flower configuration

At this year’s AF Symposium, the French Bordeaux group presented an abstract of their study using Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) with MRI.

Study Technique: With the Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) waveform generator, they used a 5-spline 12F catheter to isolate the Pulmonary Veins (PVs). Then, they used MRI to check the PFA lesions to assess any extra-cardiac damage.

Study Results

NO DAMAGE TO THE ESOPHAGUS

Position of Esophagus behind the heart

In 17 patients, the esophagus was located directly behind and adjacent to PFA lesions at a distance of 0.5 to 2 mm. Post PFA ablation and using MRI imaging, they found no esophageal lesions.

They also found no discontinuities (gaps) in any isolated PV.

(With other energy ablation sources such as RF, the esophagus would be scarred, have ulcer-like damage, and fistula.)

NO PHRENIC NERVE DAMAGE

Phrenic nerve near heart

When they ablated the right PVs, they knew that they were right next to or close to the phrenic nerve.

Upon examination, PFA lesions were found in the area of the phrenic nerve but no damage was seen (despite the fact that there was consistent phrenic nerve capture during PFA delivery).

LESS THAN 60 SECONDS PER PATIENT

And even more remarkably, the total energy delivery time per patient was less than 60 seconds. This is much less time than with other types of ablation.

Editor’s Comments:
I expect Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) will revolutionize catheter ablation for A-Fib. This is incredibly good news for patients and will make the EP’s job much easier requiring less time in the EP lab.

Better for Patients

Atrial-Esophageal Fistula No Longer a Threat: These are remarkable results! When using Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA), EPs don’t have to worry about damaging the esophagus, even though the PFA catheter may be very close to the esophagus. The dreaded complication Atrial-Esophageal Fistula will become a thing of the past! The same holds for Phrenic Nerve damage.
PFA is Tissue Selective: Instead of direct tissue contact as with RF ablation, all that’s necessary with PFA is to position the catheter in proximity to the targeted tissue. Because PFA is tissue selective, it’s easier and faster to make lesions without gaps.

Better for EPs

PFA Allows More A-Fib Patients to be Treated: Because PFA takes so little time, patients won’t have to wait for months to schedule an ablation. EPs will be better able to handle today’s epidemic of A-Fib cases. (One wonders how many PFA ablations a skilled EP will be able to do during a day?)
Better for Health of EPs: PFA may add years to an EP’s career and health. EPs no longer will have to wear those heavy lead shields for long periods of time to prevent fluoroscopy radiation damage.

But Not Ready Yet

It will probably take 3-5 years for PFA to be available for most A-Fib patients.

Reference for this report
Jais, P. et al. Lesion Visualization of Pulsed Field Ablation by MRI in an Expanded Series of PAF Patients. IHU Liryc, University de Bordeaux. AF Symposium 2020 brochure, Abstract AFS2020-37, p. 62.

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2020 AF Symposium Abstract: PFA+CTI Lesions Terminates Flutter in a Small Study

2020 AF Symposium Abstract

Pulsed Field Ablation With CTI Lesions Terminates Flutter in a Small Study

Illustration of right atrium, cavotricuspid isthmus (CTI) and tricuspid valve annulus.

Definition: Cavotricuspid isthmus (CTI) is part of the right atrium located between the inferior vena cava (IVC) ostium and the tricuspid valve.

Typical Atrial Flutter comes from the right atrium and is usually terminated by what is called a Cavo-Tricuspid Isthmus (CTI) lesion ablation line which blocks the Flutter. But for a CTI lesion to work, the Electrophysiologist (EP) using RF has to make small continuous lesions which require intense concentration to be gap free.

Even though a CTI lesion is one of the safest ablation procedures, there are some risks. Damage can be to the right coronary artery or to the AV Node and His bundle signal pathways.

PFA Makes Flutter Ablation Easier and More Effective

Ante Anic, MD, U. Hospital Center, Croatia

An abstract distributed at the 2020 AF Symposium by Dr. Ante Anic showed how the use of Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) may significantly improve CTI ablation lesions.

Pulsed Field Ablation is fast, contact forgiving, and only affects cardiac muscle cells (cardiomyocyte).

In a small PFA study (3 patients), a continuous, non-conducting line of CTI lesions was made with a deployable 4-spline, multi-electrode basket-shaped tip catheter.

Study Results: Right atrium Typical Flutter was successfully blocked with bidirectional block (BDB) confirmed. Moreover, these CTI lesions required little time to make (3, 4, & 6 minutes).

Unlike with standard radio-frequency (RF), the Pulsed Field Ablation catheter required few ablation sites (4, 3, and 6 respectively). In effect, making a CTI ablation line with PFA was much easier and required much less precision and concentration.

After a 15 minute waiting period, bidirectional block (BDB) was confirmed in all three patients to make sure there were no Flutter signals. They also used adenosine in one patient to try to stimulate that patient back into Flutter with no success.

Overall, they found that the PFA lesions were persistent and completely blocked the Flutter.

Editor’s Comments:
Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) has different catheter shapes which enable the operator (EP) to easily work in all areas of the heart.

PFA catheter shapes: (L) Basket catheter (R) Flower Petal catheter.

In this limited study, a Cavo-Tricuspid Isthmus (CTI) lesion was used to eliminate typical Atrial Flutter. The electrophysiologist (EP) used a basket configuration to make linear, focal lesions. PFA seems well suited to any heart configuration an EP may encounter.
Furthermore, EPs don’t have to worry about precisely positioning the PFA catheter for direct contact. Proximity is all that’s needed. PFA is fast and tissue specific. It won’t damage surrounding nerves and organs.
Though a small study, this abstract from Croatia opens up new frontiers for the use of PFA.
I see Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) as a radically superior treatment for right atrium typical Flutter.
References for this article
Antic, A. et al. Acute Experience with Pulsed Field Ablation for Typical Flutter. University Hospital Center Split, Croatia. AF Symposium 2020 brochure, AFS 2020-26, p. 51.

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2020 AF Symposium Abstract: Durability of Pulsed Field Ablation Isolation Over Time: Preliminary Study

2020 AF Symposium Abstract

Durability of Pulsed Field Ablation Isolation Over Time: Preliminary Study

To better understand this report you should read it in conjunction with my report of Dr. Reddy’s pre-recorded video entitled, Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) for AF.

This abstract, distributed at the AF Symposium, details a small preliminary study by researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. They investigated whether Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) lesions last over time.

We know that Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) makes safe and durable lesions around the Pulmonary Veins and it produces a zone of irreversible electroporation and cell death. We also know that surrounding this ablated area is a zone of reversible electroporation and cell injury that normalizes over time and turns back into normal tissue.

This study asked whether the level of electrical isolation after PFA regressed over time.

Comparing PFA Ablated Areas with Non-PFA Ablated Tissue

In this clinical trial, detailed voltage maps were created immediately after PFA and again after 3 months. They basically compared the areas of left- and right-sided PV antrum isolation with the non-ablated posterior wall area and, more importantly, with the borders between these two areas.

Results and Conclusion

After 3 months, the ablated areas remained isolated and the non-ablated areas stayed non-ablated. The distances between the borders remained the same.

The authors concluded that PFA isolation persists without regression.

Editor’s Comments:
Since Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) is such a new treatment, the question of whether PFA electrical isolation regresses over time needed to be asked.

This small preliminary study confirms what we would expect. PFA isolation makes safe and durable lesions that lasts over time.

Reference for this article
Kawamura, I. et al. Do Pulsed Field Ablation Lesions Regress Over Time?―A Quantitative Analysis of the PVI Level of Isolation in the Acute and Chronic Settings. Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. AF Symposium 2020 brochure, Abstract AFS2020-54, p. 78.

Graphic source: Maor, Elad et al. Pulsed electric fields for cardiac ablation and beyond: A state-of-the-art review. Heart Rhythm, Volume 16, Issue 7, 1112 – 1120.

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AF Symposium 2020: Live Case of Difficult A-Fib Ablation of Atypical Flutter

2020 AF Symposium

Live Case of Difficult A-Fib Ablation of Atypical Flutter

by Steve S. Ryan

Atypical Flutter circuits can be the most difficult to map and ablate. This live case of Atypical Flutter was a very difficult and challenging ablation. It was certainly among the toughest situations electrophysiologists (EPs) will encounter.

This live catheter ablation from Boston was presented via streaming video. We observed Atypical Flutter during this live ablation.

A-Fib Patient History

Kevin Heist MD

Kevin Heist MD

Dr. Kevin Heist from Massachusetts General Hospital described the patient as a 73-year-old man who had A-Fib and Flutter for 13 years. The antiarrhythmic drugs, dofetilide (Tikosyn) and flecainide, were unsuccessful.

In 2007 he had a successful right atrium Flutter ablation at an outside facility (not Mass. General).

In 2009, while on warfarin, he suffered a spontaneous subdural hemorrhage (bleeding between the brain and the skull) while at work. Fortunately, he lived through it.

In 2013 he had his Left Atrial Appendage closed off by a Lariat device, though they found he still had a small stump of the LAA (which is common after lariat closure).

In 2018 he had a catheter ablation for persistent A-Fib. His Pulmonary Veins (PVs) and his posterior left atrial wall were ablated which terminated his A-Fib, but left him in Mitral Annular Flutter. They ablated extensively particularly in the Coronary Sinus. Finally, they were able to convert him from Flutter to normal sinus rhythm (NSR) by making a Mitral Isthmus ablation line.

2018 Mapping Data was Re-Processed and Updated

The Carto-3 mapping system from Biosense Webster with Smart Touch catheter

Dr. Heist showed the patient’s 2018 mapping. Then he used the new Biosense Webster Carto-3 mapping system with a Smart Touch SF catheter. It can accommodate more points than the traditional system, “it creates a best fit for arrhythmia mechanism.”

He showed the 2018 vectors around the Mitral Annulus which were re-processed through the current Carto mapping system. This electroanatomical system created vectors which showed both directionality and the speed of travel.

Targeted Ablation of Scarring and Reconnection

When Dr. Heist and his team started their initial voltage and activation mapping, they found that a portion of the left vein and the posterior left atrial wall had reconnected, and there was activation of the atypical flutter around the mitral annulus.

They found a portion of the left vein and the posterior left atrial wall had reconnected
In addition, they found passive activation of the left pulmonary vein from that flutter as it traveled across the mitral isthmus line into the left veins posteriorly. They directed their ablation to that point.

With voltage mapping they found quite a bit of scar in the rightward of the posterior wall and quite a bit of scar in the Mitral Isthmus region, but a small channel for activation of the pulmonary vein.

Dr. Heist said: “These advanced mapping systems give you a pretty clear ideas of breakthrough areas. So, we targeted our ablation to isolate the left vein and the posterior wall.” This Flutter seemed to be traveling around the Mitral Annulus and through the Coronary Sinus.

“These advanced mapping systems give you a pretty clear ideas of breakthrough areas.” – Dr. Kevin Heist 

At this point in the procedure, Dr. Heist described his plan to continue to move on to more ablation and if necessary, to Coronary Sinus ablation as was done in 2018 to achieve Mitral Isthmus block.

“We have moved to higher energy and shorter duration lesions and are using 50 Watts for 10-15 seconds commonly to perform typical pulmonary vein isolation. But here we may need deeper lesions than for the rest of the left atrium. We will use 40 Watts with a force of 10 or 15 grams. We’ve been using the lesion index and trying to reach lesion indexes in the range of 500.” (The ablation index is a marker or measure of ablation quality that incorporates power, contact force, and time in a weighted formula.)

Why No Use of Pacing?

Dr. Heist didn’t want to use pacing (entrainment) because he didn’t want to prematurely terminate the Flutter signal. Around this time, they saw some esophageal warming and had to limit their ablations.

Atrial Flutter Termination!

We watched as they actually terminated the Atypical Flutter!

Success! The patient’s atypical Atrial Flutter was terminated.

Nonetheless, Dr. Heist said they would continue the ablation in the Coronary Sinus and the Mitral Isthmus line. They might also ablate circumferentially around the Coronary Sinus to make sure there are no potentials present.

As the ablation team continued to ablate in the Coronary Sinus, they answered questions from the Symposium attendees. They then had to end the live case presentation because of time constraints.

Editor’s Comments:
This ablation procedure for Atypical Flutter has got to be one of the most difficult ablation cases I’ve ever seen performed live! Dr. Heist did everything possible to check for hidden or latent arrhythmia signal sources (a characteristic of a “master” EP).
In an email to the me after the AF Symposium, Dr. Heist shared:

• At the end of the procedure, all pulmonary veins and the left atrial posterior wall were isolated.

• The mitral isthmus through which the atypical flutter had passed was completely blocked (and remained blocked when the IV drug adenosine was given).

• No arrhythmia (flutter or fibrillation) could be induced by aggressive rapid pacing. That’s the best possible result for a patient! 

One can’t help but admire Dr. Heist’s and his colleagues’ tenacity in searching for and ablating this patient’s elusive atypical Flutter.

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FAQs A-Fib Effectiveness of Successful Catheter Ablation

 FAQs A-Fib Ablations: Effectiveness 

Catheter Ablation

Catheter Ablation

“How effective is a successful catheter ablation for A-Fib? What should I expect?”

Catheter Ablation Restores Your Life!: There are few medical procedures more transformative than going from A-Fib to Normal Sinus Rhythm (NSR)! Ask any former symptomatic A-Fib patient who is now A-Fib free. It’s like your life has been restored. Few medical advances have been so rapidly and widely adapted as catheter ablation for A-Fib.

Improved Quality of Life: There is an immeasurable improvement in your quality of life. You feel better both physically and mentally. You can exercise normally again. Your general overall health and mental functioning improve, you function better physically, you feel more vital, you can handle physical and mental health stress better. Your blood pressure improves.

You no longer live in fear of the next A-Fib attack. Your Ejection Fraction improves (the ability of your heart to pump blood to your brain and the rest of your body). Your brain works better, you think more clearly, you can handle work and study challenges better. Your A-Fib “brain fog” goes away. You no longer live in fear of developing A-Fib dementia.

Better Than Drugs: You improve much more than people on antiarrhythmic drug therapy. You feel better than a life on A-Fib drugs. “Using quality of life as the primary endpoint of a trial for the first time, we demonstrated that pulmonary vein isolation (PVI) is significantly more effective than antiarrhythmic drug therapy,” according to authors of the CAPTAF clinical trial.

Improved Quantity of Life: Not only is the quality of your life improved, but the quantity as well. You can expect to live longer as well as have a more healthy and fulfilling life. Your long-term risks of death, stroke and dementia are reduced and become similar to people who’ve never had A-Fib.

In one study (CASTLE AF), death rate was reduced by an amazing 47%. Staying in sinus rhythm means you have a 60% reduced rate of cardiovascular mortality (risk of death from stroke and other cardiovascular events).

If you want to live longer (and more fully), have a catheter ablation.

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Last updated: Wednesday, April 8, 2020

2020 AF Symposium: Pulsed Field Ablation—A Game Changer for A-Fib

This year’s AF Symposium was abuzz about an emerging technology, Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA). It could change everything in the field of catheter ablation for Atrial Fibrillation.

Pulsed Field Ablation and how it works was presented by Dr. Vivek Reddy of Mount Sinai Medical Center, NY, NY. He also narrated a video showing an actual Pulsed Field Ablation procedure.

What is Pulsed Field Ablation? Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) from Farapulse, Inc. is a non-thermal energy system that uses a series of ultra-short electrical pulses to ablate heart tissue. This series of pulses, or the “waveform”, makes a long-lasting lesion in a manner of seconds compared with hours for radiofrequency.

More importantly, PFA works on the selected cell types while leaving others alone (like the esophagus).

Proximity Not Actual Contact: Unlike standard ablation energy sources such as RF (heat) and Cryo (freezing), the PFA catheter does not require actual physical contact but only needs proximity to the tissue to be ablated. And it doesn’t cause scarring or char formation. …click for full report on PFA.

Update: My Post-Abaltion 2-Month Checkup

It’s been almost two months since my catheter ablation August 1, 2019 at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, CA. And I’m feeling fine.

Just had a check-up with my EP, Dr. Shephal Doshi, on Wednesday. I haven’t had an A-Fib episode for a month.

My ECG looks perfect (see below). Notice how good the P-wave looks which often disappears when you have A-Fib. (Want to learn how read an ECG? See my article, Understanding the EKG Signal.)

Steve Ryan, A-Fib.com. ECG on Sept 25, 2019 by Dr Doshi. Verdict: all is normal!

My ECG on Sept 25, 2019 by Dr Doshi. Verdict: all is normal!

My Reveal LINQ Loop Heart rate Monitor Report

When you look at the report from my Reveal LINQ inplanted monitor, you can see I have had some tachycardia (marked in blue). But I think that may have come from the intense 100 meters sprints I do at the track. (Tachycardia is anything over 100 beats/minute.) Not to worry. Tachycardias do sometimes occur after an ablation. But one’s heartbeat usually returns to normal, as did mine.

Steve Ryan, A-Fib.com: My implanted LINQ heart monitor report 9-25-19. Note: Tachy and Pause.

My implanted LINQ heart monitor report 9-25-19. Note: Tachy and Pause.

As I reported before, during my first month post-op, I had one three-second pause at 2:00 am which isn’t of concern to me (marked in red).

Though my EP suggests putting in a pacemaker, I’d rather wait till after my blanking period is over. And even then, I’m against having a pacemaker unless I’m dizzy and feeling faint. Who wants to be burdened with a pacemaker for the rest of one’s life if it isn’t really necessary?

The Best News of All

And perhaps my best news is I don’t have to take my anticoagulant (Xarelto) any more. Yea!

Now it’s just one month to go in my 3-month post-ablation blanking/healing period. If it’s smooth sailing this next month, I’ll report again then.

For all my reports about the return of my Atrial Fibrillation after 21 years, see the following posts:

Sept 2018: Has My A-Fib Returned? I Get an Insertable Wireless Monitor
Oct 2018: Part 2: My Medtronic Reveal LINQ loop recorder21-Day results
Nov 2018: Part 3: PVCs/PACs but No A-Fib; False positives from my LINQ Monitor
July 2019: My 20-year Warranty Ran Out! My A-Fib is Back!
Aug 2, 2019: My Catheter Ablation was a Success—I was Home the Same Day
Aug 5, 2019: My A-Fib RF Catheter Ablations: 1998 vs 2019

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.

My A-Fib RF Catheter Ablations: 1998 vs 2019

When I developed paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation in 1997, I was very symptomatic. This time, in 2019, I didn’t have any symptoms—instead my A-Fib was detected by my tiny, inserted Medtronic Reveal LINQ loop monitor/recorder.

More Differences Between 1998 and 2019

Since 1998, the treatment of A-Fib by catheter ablation has advanced by light years including 3D Mapping and ablation systems and catheter technologies.

My last ablation 21 years ago in Bordeaux, France lasted eight+ hours. This one at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, CA took only 2-3 hours.

In Bordeaux, I was in the hospital for 9 days (mostly for observation, and a “touch up” second EP lab visit). In 2019, I was in and out in 12 hours.

Second Time Around: My A-Fib Catheter Ablation Prep

Steve Ryan pre-op A-Fib ablation

Pre-op: Steve with nurse inserting IV

On Thursday, August 1st, my wife, Patti, and I arrived at St. John’s around 5:30 am.

The nurses did the usual insertion of an IV port. They had trouble getting into my left arm and used the right. Then they shaved not just my groin but my chest and back too so that they could more easily attach the electrode pads for the mapping system (those pads were cold).

Then they wheeled me into the EP lab where it seemed like an army of people were waiting on me (probably around 8 people.) They were very friendly and super-efficient in their gowns and face masks.

Dr. Shephal Doshi of Pacific Heart Institute did my RF catheter ablation. (Both he and the anesthesiologist visited me in pre-op before the ablation.) Dr. Doshi has an excellent rapport with the staff and has a great sense of humor.

Out Like a Light

Before I knew it, they had a mask over my face, and I was out like a light. (Dr. Doshi said I was a “cheap date.”)

Mapping of my A-Fib heart - Steve Ryan August 2019

Mapping screen showing my A-Fib heart – the dots are the ablation lesions – notice the tight arrangement; Steve Ryan August 2019

Thanks to Dr. Doshi, we have loads of photos of my RF catheter ablation taken from the EP lab control room and some from inside the EP lab. (I intend to get an explanation of each screen from him to share with you later.)

Post-Ablation Recovery

I didn’t wake up until in the recovery room. Dr. Doshi said everything went very well. I will give you more technical details as I learn them (I don’t remember much of what he said at the time.)

He told Patti that indeed he could see the ablation lesions from my first ablation in 1998, which were around just two of my pulmonary veins (and some other areas). So, no wonder I needed a “touch-up”.

I don’t know too many details from 1998—I didn’t know to ask for the Operating Room (OR) report back then.

Post op: Dr Doshi and nurse Jamie removing Steve’s groin stitch.

To close the one catheter incision point in my right femoral vein, he used some kind of sliding figure-eight stitch that could be loosened or tightened as needed. That stitch was painful and hurt for a while. It was removed before I left the hospital.

In the recovery room I remember them bringing me a vegetable soup which tasted delicious. Patti fed me bits of a lunch of chicken salad and raw vegetables, low-fat milk and pineapple chunks.

I was discharged about 4:30pm. After a stop at the pharmacy, we were home by 6pm. Amazing compared to my first catheter ablation in 1998. In and out in under 12 hours!

Meds: Pantoprazole and Xarelto

Dr. Doshi said I have a large esophagus so he was concerned about acid reflux damage. To prevent the very rare complication Atrial Esophageal Fistula, I was given a prescription for the Proton Pump Inhibitor Pantoprazole SOD 40 mg to be taken once a day. I did have some acid reflux the first day, but none since I started taking the Pantoprazole. (For more about Atrial Esophageal Fistula , see Dr. David Keane’s AF Symposium 2014 presentation, “Complications Associated with Catheter Ablation for AF”.)

And I’m continuing to take Xarelto 20 mg (rivaroxaban) at night with a meal (I was also on it two weeks prior to my ablation).

Recovering at Home

Dr. Shephal Doshi and Steve Ryan before his A-Fib catheter ablation Aug 1 2019

My wife, Patti, drove me home that evening. I felt terrific. But that wasn’t to last.

No problems with my heart, but the next night (Friday), I developed a low-grade fever and felt very weak and unbalanced the next day. I slept a lot Saturday and felt better.

Sunday I was scheduled to be a lector at our local Catholic church. ­(I tried to get someone to sub for me but couldn’t find anyone.) I did read the scriptures for our congregation and felt fine. But went straight home after (I wouldn’t recommend this for everyone). One needs rest after an ablation.

As I write this Sunday night, I feel fine, just a bit tired. I’ll write more when I talk with Dr Doshi about my fever and after my two-week checkup.

My Catheter Ablation was a Success—I was Home the Same Day

My A-Fib catheter ablation “touch up” went off without a hitch. Dr. Shephal Doshi had me in the cath lab by 8am, out by 11am, discharged by 5pm. I feel great! (but no heavy lifting or workouts for two weeks.)

Thanks to all who emailed with good wishes, positive thoughts and prayers for a safe and successful ablation.

Look for my post with the details on Monday.

Steve Ryan in the cath lab St John Hospital before ablation on Aug 1, 2019

Steve Ryan, prepped in the cath lab at St John Hospital, Santa Monica, CA, before a catheter ablation for his asymptomatic, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

 

My 20-year Warranty Ran Out! My A-Fib is Back!

I had my catheter ablation twenty years ago and was blessedly A-Fib free till age 78. This past autumn my A-Fib reared its devilish head once again.

During a medical exam in August 2018, one of my doctors (not a cardiologist) detected an irregular heart beat. When my EP took my ECG, he didn’t detect A-Fib (thank goodness) and I didn’t have any symptoms.

Medtronic Reveal LINQ insertable heart monitor

Medtronic Reveal LINQ

But, just to be sure, he implanted a tiny wireless heart monitor so he could review my heart activity over time.

A few months ago, the Medtronic Reveal LINQ loop monitor/recorder showed I had one asymptomatic A-Fib episode up to 15 hours long and one 5-second pause during my sleep at 3:00 am.

Read my earlier posts about the return of my A-Fib:

• Sept 2018: Has My A-Fib Returned? I Get an Insertable Wireless Monitor
• Oct 2018: Part 2: My Medtronic Reveal LINQ loop recorder—21-Day results
• Nov 2018: Part 3: PVCs/PACs but No A-Fib; False positives from my LINQ Monitor

You can also read my full A-Fib story (the first A-Fib.com story).

My A-Fib Recurrence Not Surprising

My A-Fib recurrence didn’t come as much of a surprise. My catheter ablation back in 1998 was primitive compared to what EPs are doing today. I had what was called at that time a “focal point catheter ablation”.

Steve Ryan - A-Fib free since 1998 - active lifestyle

Steve Ryan, A-Fib free since 1998, doing the high jump.

Back in 1998, they actually ablated inside just one of my pulmonary veins (PVs) to eliminate the A-Fib signal source. (Today they don’t ablate inside a PV anymore because of the possible danger of causing stenosis/swelling of the PV. Instead, they ablate/isolate at the openings of the PVs to block A-Fib signals from entering the left atrium from the PVs where most A-Fib signals come from.)

Also back then along with my A-Fib, I also had a lot of pauses. But they disappeared after my catheter ablation in 1998. A successful catheter ablation often eliminates these pauses, which is one of the reasons I chose to have a catheter ablation.

Strenuous Lifestyle: 20 Years is Not Enough

Steve Ryan - sprint training

Steve Ryan sprint training

What’s surprising is not that my A-Fib re-occurred, but how long my relatively primitive ablation lasted. In effect, none of the openings to my PVs back in 1998 were electrically isolated from the rest of my heart (just inside one PV).

But nevertheless, I remained A-Fib free for 20 years while participating in very demanding, strenuous training and activities such as Masters Track meets.

I want another 20 years!

Choosing Ablation Rather Than A-Fib Drugs

I was offered the treatment option of just taking A-Fib drugs (I was asymptomatic). I chose instead to have a modern catheter ablation which will be performed Thursday, August 1st by Dr. Shephal Doshi at St. John’s hospital in Santa Monica, CA.

Also, I don’t want to be on today’s A-Fib drugs if I can avoid them.

Today’s Advanced Mapping Techniques

Dr. Doshi will identify and isolate the openings to my pulmonary veins so A-Fib signals from the PVs can’t get to the rest of your heart.

Dr Fishel RF catheter ablation video

Ablation 3-D modeling screen

But that’s not the only possible source of A-Fib signals. A-Fib can develop from other areas of the heart such as the right atrium, left atrial appendage (LAA), transeptal wall, coronary sinus, etc.

So, Dr. Doshi will use advanced mapping technologies not avaliable in 1998 to look for, then isolate, any other areas of the heart which produce A-Fib signals. His goal is to identify and isolate all A-Fib signals no matter the source.

In the final step of the ablation, he will use a drug or a electrical stimulation (passing) to try and stimulate my heart back into A-Fib—hopefully with no success.

Your Positive Thoughts and Prayers Please!

That Demon on Your Shoulder Called ‘A-Fib-Zebub’

Ridding myself of that demon ‘A-Fib Zebub’

Like so many of our A-Fib.com readers having an ablation, I ask you to please keep me in your thoughts/prayers, especially August 1st.

I have every confidence that this ablation will be a “touch-up” job, and I will once again be A-Fib free.

I expect only a one-night stay in the hospital. Patti and I will report in ASAP afterward to give you an update.

Can One Have a Stroke If A-Fib Free? Years After Successful Ablation, He has TIAs

Steve from Minnesota had a successful catheter ablation in 2016 at the Mayo Clinic. He remained in normal sinus rhythm (NSR), off all medications and felt very good. He walked every day and felt well.

TIA symptoms are the same as a stroke, and usually begin suddenly. The difference is the symptoms only last for a few minutes or hours as the blockage is temporary.

Recently he wrote to me that in the fall of 2018, he had a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack, a temporary stroke) where his left arm went limp for about 30-60 seconds. Then in March 2019, another TIA caused him to lose complete vision in his left eye for 2-3 minutes.

In response, his electrophysiologist (EP) put him on the anticoagulant Eliquis. He wore a loop monitor which showed he was in normal sinus rhythm with only a single “5-beat atrial tachycardia” (only one irregular beat). All the usual tests came back showing no heart problems.

How can Steve have TIAs if he doesn’t have any A-Fib?

Unfortunately for A-Fib patients, clots and stroke can also be non-A-Fib related, such as vascular strokes or hypertensive lacunar stroke. (Vascular and cerebrovascular disease can produce a heart attack or coronary event as well as a clot or stroke.)

With A-Fib patients, clots more often come the Left Atrium and Left Atrial Appendage (LAA). But stroke can originate from other areas. For example, plaque deposits in the arteries can break loose and form clots.

Also, if Minnesota Steve developed some fibrosis while he was in A-Fib, his left atrium may not be contracting properly making clot formation more possible. And sometimes if the LAA is electrically isolated during the ablation, it may not be contracting properly and can develop clots.

(Doctors may want to check Minnesota Steve for Patent Foramen Ovale and Atrial Septal Defect where a hole in the septum can permit clots to pass to the brain. Though, normally, this problem would have been found when performing Steve’s original ablation.

A transient ischemic attack (TIA) occurs when part of the brain experiences a temporary lack of blood flow. This causes stroke-like symptoms that resolve within 24 hours. Unlike a stroke, a ministroke on its own doesn’t cause permanent disabilities.

Would a Watchman device to close off the LAA prevent these TIAs?

Not necessarily. For patients with A-Fib, clots tend to form in the Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) because blood tends to stagnate there. But if blood is being pumped properly in the left atrium, it’s harder for clots to form in the LAA. (And other areas of clot formation can occur in the left atrium besides the LAA.)

What should Steve do now? What can he do to guarantee that he will never have a stroke?

Having TIAs is a warning sign. Often, but not always, TIAs precede a major stroke. To help guard against clots and stroke, Minnesota Steve will likely have to be on an anticoagulant, such as Eliquis, for life.

What’s Next for Steve?

Minnesota Steve and his doctor should concentrate on treating vascular risk factors such as blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol control, (CHADs2-VASc) and if needed, stop smoking. And, of course, continue monitoring for A-Fib.

Fibrosis makes the heart stiff, less flexible and weak, overworks the heart and reduces pumping efficiency.

Minnesota Steve probably should have an MRI done to measure for fibrosis in his heart. In addition, his Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) should be checked with a echocardiograph (TEE) to see if it is emptying properly.

His doctor may also want to determine how much plaque Minnesota Steve has in his arteries. How likely is it to break off and form clots? (Some doctors may suggest antiplatelet therapy in addition to the anticoagulant Eliquis, but usually the two are not combined effectively.)

I’ll continue to track Minnesota Steve’s progress and write an update if I get more information on his health status.

No Absolute Guarantee Against Stroke

While anticoagulants significantly lower the risk of an A-Fib stroke, they but do not totally eliminate it.

While anticoagulants significantly lower the risk of an A-Fib stroke, but they do not totally eliminate the risk.

A close friend of ours with A-Fib was on Coumadin at the ideal INR range (2.5) and still had a major stroke.

After a successful catheter ablation such as Minnesota Steve had, one’s stroke risk generally drops down to that of a normal person. But normal people have strokes and TIAs, too.

There is no therapy that will absolutely guarantee one will never have a stroke.

Share Your Views at A-Fib.comMinnesota Steve is blessed to have no permanent damage from those TIAs. But they are warning signs which must be heeded, probably by life-long anticoagulation. No one wants to be on anticoagulants for life. But he may not have any other choice.

Share your insights: Without a lot of current definitive research, this is a difficult subject to discuss. If anyone has any suggestions, criticisms, or comments to share on this most important topic, please email me.

A special thanks to Steve from Minnesota for asking this question and sharing his TIA experiences.

Your Nearest ‘Certified Stroke Center’ Could Save Your Life

or avert the debilitating effects of an A-Fib stroke.
But only if you get there within four hours.

Use my article to find your nearest certified or ‘Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center’. Read my article.

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