UF cardiologists use new device to treat atrial fibrillation

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (Feb. 16, 2011) – University of Florida cardiologists are now using a new cryoballoon catheter system. Approved by the Food and Drug Association in December, the technology is designed for use in patients who are unresponsive to drug treatment for paroxysmal or intermittent atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia in the U.S.

The Medtronic Arctic Front® Cryoablation Catheter System allows cardiologists to freeze the tissue responsible for intermittent abnormal heartbeat in the upper chambers of the heart. Atrial fibrillation is a leading cause of stroke and, according to the American Heart Association, is found in approximately 2.2 million Americans.

“The cryoballoon catheter is the first significant technical advance to treat atrial fibrillation in a long time,” said Dr. William M. Miles, University of Florida professor of medicine and director of clinical cardiac electrophysiology. “Compared to a standard catheter, this is a better and more efficient way to isolate the veins in these patients.”

On Jan. 26, Miles and his team used the new device at Shands at UF medical center. The cryoballoon catheter is inserted in each of the four pulmonary veins and then inflated to freeze the entire circumference of the veins. This non-surgical procedure is for use only on people with intermittent atrial fibrillation who do not respond to drug treatment.

Unlike traditional ablation treatments that use radiofrequency, or heat, to destroy faulty electrical circuits in the heart, the balloon-based technology of the cryoballoon catheter is novel because it ablates cardiac tissue through the use of a coolant rather than heat, which is delivered through a catheter. This freezing technology allows the catheter to adhere to the tissue during ablation, allowing for greater catheter stability.

Until the FDA approved the technology, the non-surgical treatment option for this condition involved isolating the veins point by point, instead of all at once, Miles said.

“We anticipate the cryoballoon will increase the overall success rate of the treatment and help prevent stroke,” Miles said.

Traditionally, about 20 percent of patients who receive treatment for intermittent atrial fibrillation experience a recurrence of symptoms. According to the STOP-AF (Sustained Treatment of Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation) trial, which served as the basis for FDA approval, 69.9 percent of patients treated with Arctic Front achieved treatment success at 12 months, compared to 7.3 percent of patients treated with drug therapy only.

In addition to the cryoballoon catheter, University of Florida cardiologists take a multidisciplinary approach to treating all types of atrial fibrillation and offer a wide range of options. One is a hybrid procedure and is used when patients have persistent atrial fibrillation. It combines catheter ablation and mini maze procedures. Mini maze is a minimally invasive pulmonary vein isolation procedure that occurs through three small incisions on each side of the chest. Through these ports a surgeon can use a bipolar radiofrequency energy source to make precise linear scars on the heart. Those ablation lines block the irregular electrical impulses that cause atrial fibrillation.

“We’re proud to be on the cutting-edge when it comes to treatment of atrial fibrillation,” Miles said. “We look forward to keeping up with future advancements in order to continue providing the best possible care to our patients.”

For more information, please visit:

Arctic Front Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter

UF Division of Cardiovascular Medicine

Arrhythmia/Electrophysiology Section

Heart Care at UF Health

Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology

UF Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery

Mini Maze Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation