Gwinnett Medical Center offers new procedure for atrial fibrillation patients

Lawrenceville, Ga. (March 7, 2019) – The Strickland Heart Center at Gwinnett Medical Center-Lawrenceville (GMC) recently announced the addition of the new Convergent atrial fibrillation (Afib) procedure. This new, minimally invasive approach is used to treat chronic Afib patients after traditional therapies, such as medication or standard ablation, has failed.

Afib is a heart rhythm disorder that involves irregular quivering or rapid heart rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart, which increases the risk of blood clotting and pooling. Over 70 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 85 are living with AFib, and in total this condition now affects 6.1 million in the U.S.

The Convergent procedure stems from a combination of expertise from a cardiac electrophysiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon. The goal is to restore a patient’s regular heart rhythm through traditional catheter and surgical ablation, a two-step process used to block the abnormal electoral signals causing irregular heartbeat. During this process, the cardiothoracic surgeon makes a small incision in the abdomen to gain access to the outside of the heart. Next, ablation takes place, causing tiny scars in the heart muscle, which disrupts or eliminates erratic electrical signals in the heart. Finally, the electrophysiologist enters the inside of the heart through a vein in the leg to remove abnormal signals that occur around the pulmonary veins.

Richard L. Harvey, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at GMC, and electrophysiologist Joshua Lovelock, MD, are working collaboratively to provide the best outcome for these patients.

“Many patients, with severe Afib, have experienced less than optimal results with standard medical treatment,” says Richard L. Harvey, MD. “This hybrid procedure is a combination of the highest quality of care an electrophysiologist and cardiac surgeon can offer, simultaneously.”

Generally, patients who benefit the most from the Convergent procedure have been treated once before using common treatments and the Afib returned. Common treatments include medications, designed to regain and maintain heart rhythm, a pacemaker and/or a standard catheter ablation procedure. Most patients with chronic Afib fail drug therapy and are deemed untreatable. This procedure is designed to provide a successful alternative for these patients.

The most impactful benefit of using the Convergent approach is improving the patients’ quality of life. Patients experience irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, fatigue and an increased risk of stroke or heart failure. Due to the highly qualified cardiac surgeons on staff, GMC can handle the most severe Afib cases.

“Improving the overall quality of life for our patients, after treatment, is our main priority,” says Joshua Lovelock, MD. “This alternative solution provides relief for a significant amount of our most severe cases. The recovery time is shorter than traditional surgical treatments and patients typically only spend two nights in the hospital.”

The Strickland Heart Center offers board-certified electrophysiologists, state-of-the-art EP labs and the latest in advanced surgical technology. Comprehensive cardiovascular services include open-heart surgery, pacemaker implantation, ablation, and a full range of cardiac diagnostic and interventional services.