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Cardiac Ablation Keeps Ann On the Move

Ann Szabo
After an outpatient procedure to correct her heart's irregular rhythm, Ann doesn't miss a beat keeping up with the busy teens at Chaminade-Julienne High School.

Growing up in Dayton’s Five Oaks neighborhood, Ann Szabo loved playing sports – an interest that stayed with her as she became an adult and the mother of six sons. The boys are all grown now, but Ann and her husband of 34 years, Chuck, still enjoy an active lifestyle.

“Chuck and I attend many of Chaminade Julienne’s sports events,” she says. “All my boys played sports there and my eldest son is the boys’ varsity assistant basketball coach.” Ann, herself a Julienne alumna, works at the school as an administrative assistant in the development and alumni office.

Imagine, then, this active 58-year old’s surprise when her daily two-mile trek along the Great Miami River turned into a trip to Good Samaritan Hospital’s emergency department. “Chuck and I had been walking for about a half mile when I found that I couldn’t catch my breath,” Ann recalls. “My shoulder blades and neck ached, and I began to feel light-headed. I sat down, lowered my head and asked Chuck to get the car. As he started to walk away, I knew I was going to faint, so he dialed 911.”

Quick Action

The responding EMTs quickly hooked Ann up to an EKG machine, which fed data straight to Good Samaritan’s emergency team. “I was frightened and worried that I was having a heart attack,” Ann says. “Then I heard the EMTs mention ‘rapid heartbeat.’ ”

When Ann arrived at Good Samaritan, the emergency team was ready for her. “They told me they were going to perform a cardioversion – shock my heart back into proper rhythm by quickly stopping and starting it,” Ann says. “They gave me some mild sedation and told me it would feel like a donkey kicked me in the chest – and it did!”

With her heart back in rhythm, Ann was released with a referral to Abdul Wase, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology, Dayton Heart & Vascular Hospital at Good Samaritan. “Everyone in the EMT squad and the GSH emergency department was great,” Ann says. “I arrived in the ER about 5 p.m. and was home by 8 p.m.”

Treat or Wait?

When she saw Dr. Wase early the next week, he diagnosed her ailment as a common form of heart arrhythmia – a rapid heartbeat in the upper chamber. Dr. Wase gave Ann three choices:

  • Do nothing. The arrhythmia wasn’t life threatening, but the dizziness and fainting it produced could lead to injuring herself or others.
  • Take medication to regulate her heartbeat.
  • Or correct the problem with a onetime procedure known as an ablation.

“Doing nothing frightened me,” Ann says. “And I didn’t want to take medication for the rest of my life, so that left ablation. I researched it thoroughly and then put my trust in Dr. Wase to perform the procedure.”

Back on Beat

Two weeks after her fainting spell, Ann was in the hospital’s high-tech electrophysiology (EP) lab. “I went in the morning and was home by 8 p.m.,” Ann recounts. “The ablation itself took only 36 minutes.” And although she had prepared herself for the possibility of excruciating pain, Ann found that her discomfort was minimal and well controlled.

“Ann had one of the easiest arrhythmias to cure,” explains Dr. Wase. “Entering through the groin, we introduce diagnostic catheters through the blood vessels to the heart to record the heartbeat from the top, middle and bottom and from behind. The sequence of beats tells us exactly where the arrhythmia originates.”

Wase HS
Dr. Abdul Wase

An additional catheter placed at the site of the problem delivers a radio frequency current that cauterizes the area without damaging nearby tissue. After the procedure, tests with the catheters in place confirm the ablation was successful. “In Ann’s case, we used only one 100-second pulse, and the job was done,” Dr. Wase reports.

After several days’ rest, Ann was back at work, and she and Chuck have resumed their daily walk along the river. Compared with many other healthcare experiences she has had, Ann ranks the exceptional treatment she received at Good Samaritan at the top.

“Ann Szabo chose to have a cardiac ablation, rather than take medication for the rest of her life, because this type of ablation is a one-time procedure with an extremely high cure rate,” Dr. Wase explains. “Although Ann’s procedure was not a dramatic, lifesaving intervention, it was a life-changing decision for her. She doesn’t have to live in fear that an irregular heartbeat might impair her vision or judgment or cause her to suddenly lose consciousness. That security is real peace of mind.”

Making the Case for Cardiac Ablation

Cardiac Ablation
Good Samaritan has always been a leader in cardiovascular care. The treatment of heart arrhythmias is no exception. Abdul Wase, MD, director of cardiac electrophysiology, Dayton Heart & Vascular Hospital (DHVH) at Good Samaritan, established the EP lab at Good Samaritan in 1994. It was not only the hospital’s first EP lab, it was first in the Dayton area. In addition, Dr. Wase was the driving force behind the two advanced EP labs that opened with the new heart hospital in August 2008. Including Dr. Wase, cardiac ablation is performed at DHVH by cardiology specialists Sameh Khouzam, MD; Kevin Kravitz, MD; Ashraf Koraym, MD; and K. Shahid Baig, MD.