The evil heart and other thoughts about my Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation

Jeremiah 17:9 is absolutely true:  "The human heart is most deceitful and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?"  That’s true of my heart and your heart.  Well, every heart.

My actual human heart has occasionally raced and fluttered for 30 years.  Sometimes is makes me lightheaded.  Others times it renders me weak, and occasionally I pass out.  This is not good, especially if one is, say, driving a car.

Heart_lab After lots of prayer and consultation, last Monday I underwent a Radio Frequency Catheter Ablation, which was done by Dr. Abraham Kocheril at Carle Hospital in Urbana, IL. 

Early in the morning I was taken to the heart Lab, which looked much like the one pictured here.  I was catheterized through a large vein in my groin and a vein in my chest.  Two wires (pacemaker like wires) were inserted through each catheter.  Using a kind of X-ray called Flouroscopy, Dr. Kocheril guided the wires into my heart.   The picture of the heart below shows a very simple rendition of what this looks like.

I was mildly asleep (conscious sedation) and don’t remember anything.  For about the next hour-and-a-half Kocheril "drove my heart." (His words.)  Sending different electrical impulses through the four different wires placed inside my the heart’s chambers, he completely tested the electrical circuitry of my heart, both speeding up the heart and slowing it down.  At one point, he even gave me some drug that caused my heart to beat 300 beats a minute (5 beats a second). 

This part of the procedure is called an Electrophysiology study.  Essentially, this is where the cardiologist, whose specialty is the electrical circuitry of the heart, maps the entire electrical circuit of the heart, trying to figure out where the abnormal rhythm is coming from.  Just as the photo above shows, there really are four or five large monitors, which allow the physician (Kocheril calls himself a heart electrician) to do this mapping successfully.

Rfa At a certain point in the testing, Kocheril was able to simulate my heart’s arrhythmia.  Through the firing of various electric impulses to one of the Atria’s (the atria are the upper chambers of the heart), my own heart’s normal electrical signal suddenly took an extra pathway, causing my heart to beat extraordinarily rapidly and flutter wildly.  This is exactly what Kocheril was looking for.

Think of it like this.  Every time your heart beats or fires, the sino-atrial node [the heart’s battery or pacemaker embedded in the right atrium of the heart] sends an electrical signal to the heart’s circuit, telling the heart to beat.  That natural pacemaker tells your pump to keep pumping blood through your body your whole life.  The electrical system of the heart is utterly fantastic, if you ask me.  We are intricately and wonderfully made.

In my heart, it’s like a bad radio tower in one of the atria intercepted the normal radio signal and sent out conflicting messages, saying, "Don’t beat normally."  As it were, occasionally this intercepting bad radio tower caused my heart to just take off, to flutter and, in general, to be a nuisance.  Whenever this happened, my heart’s circuitry always found it’s normal rhythm after a fashion, but it was a real nuisance, especially when I briefly passed out.

After Kocheril found the bad pathway, or bad radio tower, he positioned the tip of one of the catheters Kocheril right on the extra pathway (bad radio tower) — just like the above diagram shows.  He then sent radio waves (radiofrequency) to that exact spot.  The radiofrequency caused the tip of the catheter (one fifth of an inch long) to get very hot.  Thus, the tissue around the extra pathway (the bad radio tower) was ablated (destroyed), and thus the name of the procedure, Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation.

After ablating the spot, Kocheril (pictured here in the Heart Lab)then tried for about 20 minutes to induce the atrial tachycardia (the fast, irregular heart rhythm) again, but he was unsuccessful.  That, of course, is the hope.  He felt the search and destroy mission (my words, not his) was successful and he then removed the catheters.

I spent the night in the hospital, hooked up to a heart monitor.  The spots where the catheters were inserted are sore, but that’s the only residual affect.  I did fine overnight and was released the following morning.  Before Kocheril released me, he showed me the pictures of the heart he took after the ablation.  There’s a little tiny bit of scar tissue in the spot where the ablation occurred. 

I’m feeling good and just returned from working out at Gold’s Gym.  What a fantastic, unbelievably high-tech procedure.  Wow!  Double wow with thanks to God for wonderful discoveries in medicine! 

This is definitely not one of those things you want to try at home.

2 thoughts on “The evil heart and other thoughts about my Radiofrequency Catheter Ablation

  1. Hey Don, Harrel forwarded me your recent column. Whew, glad you are OK.It is amazing how technology has changed in our lifetimes!Tell Jennifer hello. Guess your children are about grown by now.Best wishes for a great holiday.Sally Morgan


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