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Innovative Treatment Has AFib Patient Grateful for Getting ‘The Best of the Best’

Lynda Strait, Hoag Patient with Atrial Fibrillation, posing with her care team after receiving a hybrid convergent procedure.

In 2018, Lynda Strait noticed herself getting weak and tired. Her heart would pound at night so badly, she couldn’t sleep on her side. The once-regular gym-goer could no longer make it from her garage to her front door without getting winded.

“I said to my daughter, ‘If I have to live with this the rest of my life, I don’t want to live,’” she said.

Her general practitioner referred her to cardiologist Jeffrey Bruss, M.D., who diagnosed Lynda with atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common type of arrhythmia that, if left untreated, could lead to a higher risk of stroke and heart failure.

As common as it is, AFib is a complex rhythm disorder, and treatment is a process that typically involves taking the least invasive approach first and carefully monitoring the patient to determine if more interventions are necessary. The key to this journey is expertise. After careful treatment and monitoring, electrophysiologist Michael Panutich, M.D., concluded that Lynda would need an ablation to correct her irregular heartbeat.

At Hoag, Lynda had choices. Beyond lifestyle changes, electrical cardioversions and taking medication to control AFib, Hoag offers treatment options for persistent AFib including catheter ablation as well as surgical ablation, such as the Maze and Mini-Maze Procedures. Cardiac ablation destroys the tissue where abnormal electrical signals originate. This effectively blocks abnormal signals and stops AFib from occurring. Another option available to Lynda was a Hybrid Convergent procedure, a multidisciplinary approach combining the skill and experience of both a cardiac surgeon and an electrophysiologist in one procedure.

She opted for the minimally invasive Hybrid Convergent procedure. First, Anthony Caffarelli, M.D., the Newkirk Family Endowed Chair in Aortic Care and director of Hoag Cardiovascular Surgery and the Elaine & Robert Matranga Aortic Center, created a small incision in her lower chest to ablate the outer back wall of her heart. Next, Dr. Panutich threaded catheters (long, thin tubes) through small incisions into her blood vessels to ablate tissues inside her heart for a complete procedure.

Hoag is a national teaching center for convergent ablation, and as a former schoolteacher, Lynda appreciates that. “I feel very privileged to be working with the caliber of doctors that they have at Hoag. They are the best of the best. I haven’t had one AFib since my surgery in March 2019.”

Lynda has maintained her sense of humor, but the former teacher in her comes out when she discusses the importance of taking AFib seriously. “Had it not been for Dr. Bruss sending me down the path to these excellent specialists, I probably would not be here today,” she said. “If you feel your heart is beating fast, get a checkup!”