23 February 2011
Artrial fibrillation - or an irregular heartbeat - is a relatively common heart health problem in the UK, affecting around 600,000 people, but it can have severe consequences.
If irregular heartbeats, which are more common among those in their 70s, are left untreated, they can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
The first port of call for someone with an irregular heartbeat is usually beta-blockers and amiodarone, which are used to manually regulate a person's heartbeat.
If unsuccessful, surgery is usually a necessity and a new technique being pioneered by Steven Griffin, a consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at Spire Hull & East Riding Hospital, called thoracoscopic atrial fibrillation ablation, is proving successful.
Writing for the Daily Mail, he said the procedure, which was developed in the US, involves threading a wire through the chest and burning the veins in the heart that are causing the irregular beat.
The technique is usually combined with maintenance of the left arterial appendage, which can often collect blood - which clots - when a person's heartbeat becomes irregular.
Thoracoscopic atrial fibrillation ablation has proved an effective treatment and has already become a frontline procedure in the Netherlands.
Causes of arterial fibrillation are many and varied, but risk is heightened in patients with a history of coronary heart disease - including previous heart attacks.
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