YOUR HEALTH: Destroying the heart to improve your life

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – More than five million Americans have heart failure and many of them will also suffer atrial fibrillation.

David Shepherd is one of them.

He is an active guy, so when his job delivering bread got tough, he knew something was wrong.

"Every time I'd come in, I was so exhausted and so winded that I had to sit down in the backroom of these grocery stores for ten or fifteen minutes to catch my breath," he recalled.

David had heart problems for years and now he was in atrial fibrillation.

Dr. Nassir Marrouche used a catheter to destroy areas in the heart that were causing the irregular heartbeats.

Dr. Marrouche's trial for patients like David, with heart failure and A-fib, shows remarkable results after five years.

"We showed that for the first time ever, that catheter ablation for A-fib does improve mortality by almost 50-percent reduction."

The Castle A-F study also showed that hospitalizations dropped 47%.

"Showing such a striking mortality and heart end point benefits was, as you can imagine, great great news for our patients and for us as treating physicians," said Dr. Marrouche.

ATRIAL FIBRILLATION: Atrial fibrillation is an often rapid and irregular heart rate that increases a patient's risk of stroke, heart failure, and other complications related to the heart.   During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two upper chambers will beat irregularly and chaotically, out of coordination with the two lower chambers.   Symptoms often include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, general feeling of weakness, reduced ability to exercise, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and lightheadedness.   Episodes may come and go, or a patient may develop atrial fibrillation that does not go away and requires treatment.   Alone, this condition usually isn`t life-threatening, but it is a serious medical condition that can sometimes require emergency treatment.  (Source:

Dr. Marrouche says this is good news for the health care system, too, as cost of care should drop.

David's just glad it worked.

"I like to bike ride, I like to hike, I like to camp. I like to get out and do things."

Both David and Dr. Marrouche hope this study will help more heart failure patients soon.

Patients in the study had significant heart weakness, an implanted defibrillator, and any type of A-fib.

Dr. Marouche says 30% of heart failure patients get A-fib.   He hopes the study findings will change standard of care for these folks quickly.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

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