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Ablation Treatment for Ventricular Fibrillation [Transcript]

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Ablation Treatment for Ventricular Fibrillation at Johns Hopkins

After an irregular heart rhythm struck out of the blue, James Cromwell made a dramatic comeback.

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James Cromwell

I was sitting there having dinner and I just keeled over.


While James Cromwell, his wife and stepdaughter were having dinner at their home in Frederick, Maryland, an arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm, struck Mr. Cromwell out of the blue.

James Cromwell

My daughter, she got up and started giving me CPR and my wife called 9-1-1.


Emergency medical services arrived and discovered his heart beating in a chaotic rhythm called ventricular fibrillation. No longer deliver oxygen to his muscles and brain; he was experiencing a condition called “sudden death.” An ambulance rushed Mr. Cromwell to the local ER, where his heart continued the same chaotic rhythm. After being stabilized, he was transferred to the Johns Hopkins hospital.

Saman Nazarian, M.D.

There are about 300,000 sudden deaths a year in the US and a good proportion of those are from ventricular fibrillation. The main methodology for treating them is defibrillators.

James Cromwell

They put a defibrillator and put it up here in my chest and ran wires down to my heart that, when my heart went haywire, it would shock it.


Though Mr. Cromwell was taking a powerful anti-arrhythmia drug, the defibrillator still had to send electric shocks to restore his heart’s rhythm. This soon became problematic.

James Cromwell

If it was going off, or getting ready to go off, I felt real funny and lightheaded. It got to the point where it just was going “bang, bang, bang.”


Dr. Saman Nazarian told him about a minimally invasive procedure performed at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, called catheter ablation that is used treat arrhythmias.

Saman Nazarian, M.D.

So the concept that you can find one area within the heart that sets off the rest of the heart in this chaotic rhythm is relatively new. The main methodology for treating them is defibrillators, but if they do continue to have shocks, ventricular fibrillation ablation could be an important piece of treatment for them. We were able to cauterize a small portion of his heart that was essentially responsible for starting all these episodes. We were excited about looking at these patients to see how many of them actually would benefit from a procedure like this because there’s a chance that in a good proportion of them, the rhythm involves the entire heart, but the initiation is from one focus. And so I think it may be applicable in more patients than we think.

James Cromwell

Ever since then, I’ve been feeling good. I’ve been doing a little woodworking, a little grass mowing. As far as I’m concerned, he saved my life.

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