Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans Sponsors Atrial Fibrillation Symposium

February 20, 2008 6:20 AM CT

After almost dying in emergency heart surgery, Internet executive Mellanie True Hills left her corporate life behind to spread the word about women and heart disease.

“I had blood clots and a close call with stroke due to atrial fibrillation,” Hills said. She never knew when an episode would strike. “I might be washing the dog or out walking or even on a conference call, and was always afraid,” she added. “My family wouldn’t let me out of their sight…We planned our travel to always be near hospitals,” she recalled.

Hills, now a best-selling author and founder of the American Foundation for Women’s Health, will be a guest speaker at a free educational seminar sponsored by Tulane Medical Center at noon on Wednesday, Feb. 20 at the World War II Museum.

The event will include discussion about treatment options for atrial fibrillation patients by Tulane Medical Center physicians Drs. John Pigott and James McKinnie.

More than five million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation, or afib, the most common cause of irregular heartbeat. Skipped heartbeats, heart palpitations and lightheadedness – once considered harmless – are now known to lead to congestive heart failure or stroke. The Mayo Clinic has estimated that at least 16 million Americans will have atrial fibrillation, or afib, by 2050.

Afib occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating normally. Because blood is not completely pumped out of the heart, it may clot and become lodged in an artery in the brain, causing a stroke. People with a history of high blood pressure, thyroid, lung or nerve conditions, heart attack, leaky valves, artery disease or inflammation near the heart, can develop afib.

In the past, there were only a few non-surgical options for managing the disease, including medications to restore a normal rhythm. Ablation procedures, however, provide the best options for actually curing the condition. One ablation procedure is performed in the cardiac catheterization lab by the electrophysiologist. A surgical procedure, called the Maze procedure, was developed to treat these patients. While the Maze provides a cure for AF, ablation also requires open-heart surgery and often a heart-lung bypass.

A third option, called the Mini-Maze, requires minimally-invasive surgical ablation. The surgeon makes small incisions on either side of the chest and uses an energy source to make precise scars on the heart, blocking the electrical impulses causing the fibrillation.

Dr. Pigott is a leading cardiovascular surgeon who has done more Mini-Maze and Maze procedures than anyone in the region. Dr. McKinnie is a leading electrophysiologist (cardiologist) with extensive experience in catheter-based approaches to atrial fibrillation. The event will be held on the third floor of The National World War II Museum, 945 Magazine St., New Orleans. Space is limited. Reservations can be made by calling 504-988-5800.

Tulane Medical Center is an acclaimed teaching, research and medical facility serving the Greater New Orleans area. TMC has more than 500 credentialed physicians who provide leading-edge care, ranging from primary to tertiary to quaternary. Facilities in the New Orleans area include Tulane Medical Center, Tulane-Lakeside Hospital, Tulane Hospital for Children, Tulane Cancer Center Comprehensive Clinic, Tulane Abdominal Transplant at Tulane Medical Center, Tulane Multispecialty Center Metairie, Tulane Multispecialty Center Uptown, Tulane Multispecialty Center Downtown and the Tulane Institute for Sports Medicine. TMC is a partnership jointly owned by HCA and Tulane University. For more information about Tulane Medical Center, please visit www.tuhc.com or call 1-800-588-5800.