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Published on February 25, 2014

Patient Experience

John Paul

John Paul runningJohn Paul is a runner and a frequent participant in marathons. An outdoorsman, he and his wife, Katy, and their four children have taken family vacations hiking and camping for weeks at a time.  Several years ago, the Falmouth man suddenly began to experience infrequent bouts of arrhythmia, which caused him to experience some lightheadedness and palpitations that concerned him.  For more than three years he was able to ignore it.

John is the Director of Operations for the Franklin, Massachusetts, office of the ZeptoMetrix Corporation, providing testing panels for reference labs in the fight against infectious diseases. His busy professional responsibilities and his active lifestyle left him little room for dealing with a chronic medical condition. Nevertheless, when his episodes of arrhythmia became more frequent, he knew it was time to pay attention. What had been occurring once every couple of months was now happening more than once a week. His primary care physician, Dr. William Litterer, diagnosed him with Atrial Fibrillation (AF). AF is the most common form of heart arrhythmia. During AF, the heart’s two upper chambers, the atria, quiver instead of contract. People who suffer from AF may have heart palpitations, shortness of breath and weakness and fatigue, which can greatly affect their quality of life. 

Dr. Litterer referred John to Dr. Peter Friedman, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Cape Cod Hospital.  Up to now, the standard procedure for treating AF had been radiofrequency ablation, which involved the burning of the cells. The tissue is burned in a series of spots around the vein, and thus neutralizes the offending cells. But, radiofrequency ablation can create scarring which can close off the vein. Another serious risk is that blood clots can form and cause a stroke.

Dr. Friedman described a new option to John Paul - known as Balloon Cryoablation. Balloon Cryoablation disables the cells in the heart that create the irregular heartbeat, by freezing them. During the minimally invasive procedure, a thin flexible tube, called a balloon catheter, is used to locate and freeze the tissue that triggers the AF. The balloon is inflated in the pulmonary vein, cutting off the blood supply for several seconds, while the cold temperature is delivered to the tissue through the balloon. 

John was Dr. Friedman’s second patient for the new procedure.

“I went in and had the procedure on a Wednesday; Thursday I went home; and Friday I was outside cutting the grass. I was off the meds immediately which was a big goal for me,” John said. In August, he ran the Falmouth Road Race with his son, Adam. “We finished in a little over an hour,” he said. “I was in no danger of winning it, but it felt really good to be out there.”

John says that the Cape Cod Healthcare system worked well for him. His primary care physician referred him for treatment with Dr. Friedman at The Cardiovascular Specialists in Hyannis for a procedure at Cape Cod Hospital.  “The referrals all worked smoothly. I’m glad I did it,” he added. “It gave me my life back.”