After struggling with atrial fibrillation, catheter ablation restored his heart beat

West universal

Robert West struggled with atrial fibrillation (AFib) for five years. After a pacemaker and high doses of medication failed to help, his cardiologist told him he’d have to live with the symptoms.

“I had worked hard to finally enjoy retirement and then I couldn’t do anything,” said the 73-year-old former mayor of Lansing, Ill. “I just wanted to lie in bed all day.”

In atrial fibrillation, erratic electrical impulses starting in the upper chambers of the heart affect the normal electrical pathway through the rest of the heart.

The heart beats irregularly, resulting in lower blood flow and higher risk for clots, stroke or heart failure. Symptoms may include a racing heart, skipped beats, fatigue, shortness of breath during physical activity and chest discomfort.

In August 2015, a friend told West about UChicago Medicine’s expertise in catheter ablation therapy. At his first appointment, West said the medical team answered all his questions and expressed confidence his normal heart rhythm could be restored.

During the procedure, a catheter is threaded through the leg into the heart to locate sources of the abnormal electrical signals, which are then eliminated by radiofrequency energy.

They did what they said they would do,” West said. "I was in an out of the procedure in six hours and home the next day.” Just one week later, West was on the dance floor at his daughter’s wedding, twirling the bride during the traditional father-daughter dance.

Arrhythmia Care at UChicago Medicine

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