Pulsed field ablation to treat AFib available at UCHealth

What is pulsed field ablation, and how can it help treat my atrial fibrillation? We have the answers.
April 10, 2024
Dr. Amar Trivedi, UCHealth cardiac electrophysiologist, and Brett Shreve, UCHealth scrub nurse, perform the first pulsed field ablation procedure to treat Kerry Pabst's atrial fibrillation Tuesday at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. UCHealth Photographs by Sonya Doctorian - March 12, 2024
Dr. Amar Trivedi, UCHealth cardiac electrophysiologist, and Brett Shreve, UCHealth nurse, perform the first pulsed field ablation procedure to treat a patient’s atrial fibrillation on March 12, 2024, at Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Sonya Doctorian, UCHealth.

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most commonly treated heart rhythm disorders in the United States. A new treatment for atrial fibrillation called pulsed field ablation is available at UCHealth in Colorado.

UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies is leading the way in treating AFib by becoming one of the first hospitals in the nation to offer pulsed field ablation, and the procedure is offered in more UCHealth locations.

“This is the most anticipated new technology in electrophysiology in more than 10 years,” said Robert Wagner, senior director of UCHealth’s cardiovascular services in northern Colorado.

Pulsed field ablation may help anyone who has symptoms of AFib. Here are answers to questions you may have about atrial fibrillation and pulsed field ablation.

What is atrial fibrillation (AFib)?

When the heart beats normally, its muscular walls tighten and squeeze to force blood out and around the body, then it relaxes while it fills with blood again. This is a heartbeat, and the timing of the heartbeat is controlled by the heart’s electrical system—its own pacemaker.

If that electrical system isn’t working correctly, irregular heartbeats, also called arrhythmias, may occur. The most common type of arrhythmia is called atrial fibrillation, or AFib.

In some cases, AFib is monitored by a physician or managed through medication, but AFib can become dangerous when it affects the heart’s ability to pump blood. This can lead to heart failure or blood clots that can cause a stroke.

AFib is a progressive condition that affects up to 6.1 million Americans and that number is expected to nearly double by 2030, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It’s become an epidemic. That’s why it’s very important that we find treatment solutions that are safe, effective and efficient,” said Dr. Amar Trivedi, a UCHealth clinical cardiac electrophysiologist who recently performed the first pulsed field ablation at MCR.

According to the American Heart Association, one in three individuals will be affected by AFib during their lifetime.

What are the symptoms of AFib?

“Beyond just having palpitations, people feel run down and tired they often attribute it to getting older but often these symptoms are due to AFib,” Trivedi said.

Symptoms of AFib include:

  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Rapid, fluttering or pounding heart palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

What is pulsed field ablation and how is it different from the traditional catheter ablation method?

Ablation is a treatment option for AFib that has been used for more than 20 years. During the procedure, a doctor threads a heart catheter from a patient’s leg vein up to the heart.

Traditionally, doctors use thermal (heat) effects to target the cardiac tissues that trigger AFib. However, these methods risk damaging the surrounding vital organs and nerves.

The pulsed field ablation approach uses a series of electric pulses to target and treat Afib by isolating the pulmonary veins. Since these pulses don’t generate heat, the risk of harming other parts of the heart is lessened.

Who qualifies for pulsed field ablation (PFA)?

Pulsed field ablation is for anyone with symptoms of AFib.

Although sometimes AFib can be managed with medication, new 2023 guidelines from the American Heart Association state that, based on scientific evidence, catheter ablation is the superior treatment. AHA has now broadened its recommended patient criteria for early ablations.

Where can I get pulsed field ablation?

UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado, UCHealth Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo, Colorado,
and UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Spring, Colorado, offer pulsed field ablation.

Physicians at Medical Center of the Rockies have been involved in pivotal clinical trials to bring this technology to patients and are continuing to enroll patients in clinical trials.  Only a handful of health care systems offer pulsed field ablation throughout the U.S., but that is expected to expand over the coming year, including more UCHealth locations.

Is pulsed field ablation safe?

Currently, two pulsed field ablation systems have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Medtronic PulseSelect Pulsed Field Ablation System received FDA approval in December 2023. The Boston Scientific Corporation Farapulse Pulsed Field Ablation System received FDA approval in January 2024.

Findings from three trials that evaluated pulsed field ablation for the treatment of atrial fibrillation demonstrated the safety and efficacy of the new treatment.

One study found that 73% of patients remained free from AFib at the five-year mark with no noted delayed adverse effects from the treatment.

About the author

Kati Blocker has always been driven to learn and explore the world around her. And every day, as a writer for UCHealth, Kati meets inspiring people, learns about life-saving technology, and gets to know the amazing people who are saving lives each day. Even better, she gets to share their stories with the world.

As a journalism major at the University of Wyoming, Kati wrote for her college newspaper. She also studied abroad in Swansea, Wales, while simultaneously writing for a Colorado metaphysical newspaper.

After college, Kati was a reporter for the Montrose Daily Press and the Telluride Watch, covering education and health care in rural Colorado, as well as city news and business.

When she's not writing, Kati is creating her own stories with her husband Joel and their two young children.