AFib Ablation Procedure Debuts at Inova Loudoun

Inova Loudoun Hospital recently announced that atrial fibrillation (AFib) ablation procedures can now be performed at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute – Schaufeld Family Heart Center on the hospital’s Lansdowne campus. 

AFib is a heart rhythm problem that causes an irregular pulse. It’s a common condition, affecting approximately 2.7 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Untreated, AFib can cause symptoms including palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath and can lead to serious health issues, such as an increased risk of stroke and heart failure. AFib ablation is the most advanced treatment for AFib and has been performed for years at Inova’s Fairfax Hospital. 

AFib ablation—also called heart ablation or cardiac ablation—uses a catheter to apply heat or cold energy to a small amount of heart tissue, interrupting the abnormal electrical impulses in the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. It has been shown to reduce or eliminate AFib episodes and improve outcomes for many patients. 

The arrival of the procedure at the Lansdowne campus has its four credentialed providers euphoric.

“This opens up the opportunity to provide the highest level of care for our patients,” said Dr. Brett Atwater.

Atwater, along with his colleagues Dr. Vineet Kumar, Dr. Chirag Sandesara, and Dr. Jeff Lee, has already been performing AFib ablations at Inova Fairfax. 

“In Fairfax, we typically do five to 10 Afib ablations a day, five days a week. It’s one of the most common procedures we do to take care of patients with arrythmia problems,” he said. 

Patients who undergo the procedure report great improvements in their overall quality of life, Atwater said. Typically, post-procedure patients are able to engage in exercise or physical activity that they may not have had the endurance for prior to an AFib ablation.

Atwater said he expects the volume of AFib ablations performed at Inova Loudoun to pick up quickly following its July 1 arrival. He also believes the close proximity of the hospital to many of his patients’ homes will serve as an incentive to move forward with the procedure, as the drive to Fairfax may have been a deterrent.

“The travel time and hassle that goes along with it resulted in patients not willing to have the procedure done, so that’s suboptimal care,” he said. “People obviously use medical therapy, pills instead of procedural therapy but those lead to inferior outcomes unfortunately. The goal of the whole program to offer to patients is to take optimal care of arrythmia.”

As the program settles in at Inova Loudoun, initially patients will spend one night in the hospital following the procedure. Eventually, though, it will move to same-day discharge, as the procedure occurs on an outpatient basis already in Fairfax, said David Reich, director of the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute – Schaufeld Family Heart Center.

It was a six-year journey to bring the procedure to Inova Loudoun, said Reich. That included ensuring the clinical expertise was in place; training nurses and hospital staff; and capital investment, including a new procedure room. On the latter point, he is particularly praiseworthy of the Schaufeld family for their investment in strengthening the cardio care offerings in Loudoun. “It’s been a phenomenal effort…and of course we needed to take the time to do the right things the right way and we’ve done it that way the whole time,” he said. 

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