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Doctor freezes part of heart for new procedure

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

First cyroablation in Wisconsin performed at St. Luke’s

Charles Lanzarotti, MD, an electrophysiologist, is the first physician in Wisconsin to perform cryoablation, a procedure that involves freezing heart tissue to treat arrhythmias. On November 13, Dr. Lanzarotti used a special catheter to freeze tissue inside the heart to permanently correct the patient’s heart rhythm at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee. He has since successfully performed the procedure on two additional patients.

The recently FDA- approved cryoablation technology, developed by Cryocath, is the first real alternative to the traditional radiofrequency ablation procedure in the last 15 years. Unlike radiofrequency which uses heat to ablate, or kill, the target tissue that is causing the heart arrhythmia, Freezor® catheters actually freeze the tissue at temperatures as low as minus 80 degrees Celsius. As heat is removed from the target tissue cellular activity is slowed and eventually killed. This process, which occurs at a cellular level, can be performed without damage to the underlying structure to the heart. Using cryotherapy reduces the risk that the patient may need a pacemaker after the ablation.

“This procedure is an excellent alternative to radiofrequency ablation because it is safe and highly effective,” says Dr. Lanzarotti. “It is used primarily for patients with a specific type of arrhythmia, Atrioventricular Node Reentry Tachycardia (AVNRT), or racing heart syndrome, which is the most commonly treated with radiofrequency ablation. It also has other widespread applications, such as atrial fibrillation, that will soon be studied here at St. Luke’s.”

Another advantage of cyroablation is that it is essentially painless, making general anesthesia unnecessary. Patients receive only minimal sedation and the procedure is performed on an outpatient basis.

Arrhythmias affect about 10 million people worldwide and over 2 million people in the United States. Now, cryotherapy, which is minimally invasive, makes ablation available to more people suffering from racing heart syndrome who may have gone without treatment.

St. Luke’s Medical Center is part of Aurora Health Care, a not-for-profit Wisconsin health care provider and a nationally recognized leader in efforts to improve the quality of health care. Aurora has care sites in 75 communities in eastern Wisconsin.

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Contact: Jennifer Gross

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