Patient Stories-Mary

2.2 million people in the United States. live with atrial fibrillation, putting them a risk for blood clots and stroke.

I am not a statistic.
“My heart would start pounding so hard and so fast that I was afraid to leave my house. My doctor performed a nonsurgical procedure, and the attacks stopped. I am Mary, and I love going out with my girlfriends.”

Mary’s Story

With nonsurgical procedure, she’s back on the job and back into life

Mary, a 55-year-old caseworker at the Department of Human Services, had no idea why her heart would suddenly start racing out of control during normal daily activities like walking or working. “I’d start sweating and feeling lightheaded, and then my heart would start beating really fast,” she recalls. The attacks gradually became more frequent and severe, landing her in the emergency room three times. “During the last attack, I could actually see my blouse moving because my heart was pounding so hard,” she says.

To learn the cause of Mary’s symptoms, Dr. Cynthia M. Tracy, an electrophysiologist at George Washington University Hospital, performed a study of the electrical system of Mary’s heart. Dr. Tracy discovered that one small portion of tissue in the upper chambers of Mary’s heart was generating electrical impulses that were causing abnormal heart rhythms called cardiac arrhythmias. If left untreated, Mary’s type of cardiac arrhythmia could have led to serious problems.

Dr. Tracy performed a cardiac ablation, a nonsurgical procedure during which a thin wire (catheter) is threaded through a blood vessel in the groin up to the heart. The catheter emits a mild, painless radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) to destroy only the tissue that was causing the abnormal rhythms.

Mary was in the hospital overnight but was back at work in just days. Today, she feels great.

“This has made such a difference in my life,” she says. “Before, I never knew when I’d have an attack, so I’d only leave the house to go to work. Now, I love going out with my girlfriends on the spur of the moment.”