Feeling dizzy and having heart palpitations? Think you’re having a heart attack? That may not be the case. Atrial fibrillation (AF), or “A Fib,” affects 250,000 Americans each year, and has similar symptoms to a heart attack but is not life-threatening.
In its most simple terms, AF causes a rapid, irregular heart rhythm – it occurs when errant electrical impulses in the heart cause the heart’s upper chambers to beat erratically. Medications do not often help with AF, so a new procedure has been developed to help eliminate the electrical impulses within the heart that cause A Fib.
The problem is that this procedure, AF ablation, can be very costly and is far from fool-proof. Often the procedure is unsuccessful the first time, so it has to be repeated. It also has significant risks. Many of those affected by AF are elderly and often easily persuaded by medical professionals who over-hype the benefits of the procedure. What is not being disclosed is that the risks, for many, do not outweigh the benefits.
Among a number of risks of AF ablation, the most common include:
- Blood clots
- Perforation of the pulmonary veins or heart
- Pulmonary vein stenosis (blockage in the blood vessels)
Since AF ablation is a relatively new procedure, the long-term effects are unknown and the actual procedure is still being investigated. Given that it is a very lucrative procedure for hospitals and doctors a lot of people affected by AF are being told that they qualify for the procedure and are being advised to look into it.
But, as with any developing procedure, there is little known about it and not much is being regulated. In fact, a medical device manufacturer was recently held liable for marketing catheters for the procedure even though they had not been approved for FDA use in ablation. A recent article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association also questioned the methods by which the procedure’s success is being evaluated.
If you are someone who is considering AF ablation, do not rush into the procedure without doing your own homework. Be wary of any statistics found online or presented directly by medical professionals. If something so new sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you or a loved one has recently undergone AF ablation and are now experiencing adverse effects, speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney. An evaluation of your case can determine if your doctor or hospital was negligent in fully informing you of all of the risks.