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Innovative Therapy Combines Technology and Minimally Invasive Approach

SEATTLE, Wash. — (Nov. 2, 2006) — The Heart Institute at Virginia Mason is the first heart center in Seattle to offer minimally invasive ablation surgery, a new procedure for patients with irregular heart rhythms. The treatment represents another option for patients who have one of the most common heart rhythm disturbances, atrial fibrillation, estimated to affect about 2.2 million individuals nationwide.

Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart disease which can limit blood flow and cause fatigue, shortness of breath and increase the risk of a stroke. Physicians can now use minimally invasive ablation treatment to target specific heart tissue with microwave energy and restore a normal heart rhythm. During surgery, small incisions are made in the chest and a tiny endoscopic camera is inserted into one of three ports, allowing the surgeon to view and treat the heart without opening the chest cavity.

“This is an exciting treatment advance for heart patients with this type of heart disease. The minimally invasive procedure is an alternative to standard surgery, and in the majority of cases the patient’s heart condition can be cured,” said Mark Hill, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon at Virginia Mason. “This treatment approach allows us to care for many more atrial fibrillation patients. We are very happy with the early results.”

Prior to this treatment option, patients with irregular heart beats would require more invasive medical treatments or open heart surgery. This new approach is an alternative for patients who have failed other treatments and have limited medical options. Compared to open heart surgery, minimally invasive ablation therapy is a simpler procedure, with a lower risk of morbidity and faster recovery. National data has shown a 70 to 80 percent success rate for patients.

As a pioneer in the introduction of innovative heart treatment techniques, The Heart Institute at Virginia Mason began offering this treatment in June 2006, utilizing advanced technology to achieve a normal heart rhythm for patients. As a heart referral center in the region, the heart team at Virginia Mason has performed the highest number of these procedures in the state. Virginia Mason reports early results show that more than 80 percent of these patients have a normal heart rhythm.

James Balkman, 70, a heart patient at Virginia Mason, recently had minimally invasive ablation treatment and within a short while was back out kayaking. “I am a backpacker, hiker and avid kayaker, and I don’t let grass grow under my feet!” said Balkman. “I started feeling a loss of energy and wanted to sleep a lot. That just wasn’t me. I tried other options that ultimately did not fix my condition. After this treatment, I am back to my old self.”

Virginia Mason Medical Center
Virginia Mason Medical Center, founded in 1920, is a not-for-profit comprehensive regional health care system that combines a primary and specialty care group practice of nearly 500 physicians with a 336-bed acute care hospital in Seattle. In addition, Virginia Mason has a network of clinics located throughout the Puget Sound area, and manages Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and adult day health program for people living with HIV and AIDS. Virginia Mason also has an internationally recognized research center, Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason.

Alisha Mark
(206) 341-1509
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