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Clinical Trials: Serving Others Through Science

Health Articles |
Categories: Heart
Clinical Trials

Doylestown Health patient is first to enroll in an international clinical trial for Atrial Fibrillation

Volunteer firefighter and U.S. Coast Guard veteran Norman Hunsinger, 68, has made helping others his life's work. So, when his doctor gave him the opportunity to advance medical science by enrolling in a clinical trial, he was intrigued.

"I like the idea that my experience can help someone else with my condition," explains Norman, whose Doylestown Health electrophysiologist is conducting the STOP Persistent AF clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of cryoablation for patients with persistent Atrial Fibrillation (AFib).

About Persistent AFib

The most common irregular heart rhythm disorder, AFib, is a leading cause of stroke in the United States. An irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) can cause poor blood flow in the heart, increasing stroke and heart failure risk. Persistent AFib is an abnormal heart rhythm that continues for seven days or more.

Running Out of Options

"Persistent AFib put a damper on my lifestyle," says Norman, who took medication and made frequent trips to the hospital for a procedure called cardioversion to restore his heart rhythm. Seeking a solution, he reached out to Doylestown Health electrophysiologist John Harding, MD.

Leading the Way in Technology and Research

Dr. Harding and his colleague Robert Sangrigoli, MD, clinical trial investigators, are highly experienced in cryoablation, a minimally invasive procedure that uses freezing technology to destroy the faulty nerve tissue that causes irregular heart rhythm. Doylestown Hospital was one of the first in the United States to offer cryoablation technology to treat AFib in 2011.

"With ablation therapy, most patients see an improvement or even elimination of their AFib," says Dr. Harding. "To date, no other strategy has been shown to be better than the electrical isolation of the pulmonary veins to treat persistent AFib. It is a strategy that we've employed at Doylestown Health for many years."

Physicians with Doylestown Health's Richard A. Reif Heart Institute perform a high volume of ablations for AFib, and Doylestown Hospital is one of the top programs in the region in terms of success and safety performing the procedure.

In addition, research opportunities keep Doylestown Health at the forefront, introducing new technologies and research protocols. "We participate in groundbreaking research and partner with device engineers to improve catheter design and performance," explains Dr. Sangrigoli.

Feeling Strong, Ready to Travel

"I haven't had an episode of AFib since January," says Norman, who will be monitored for a year after his cryoablation as part of the study. He's optimistic about the future and looking forward to traveling to Maine to reunite with old friends from his Coast Guard days.

Benefits of Clinical Trial Participation

Doylestown Health is committed to aligning resources to clinical trials, which bring the newest therapies to patients, while helping to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of treatments and devices. "Our research-based culture attracts physicians who want to engage in the latest developments in medicine while continuing to provide hands-on care," says Noreen Withers, BSN, CCRC, Doylestown Health Medical Research manager.

Every study undergoes rigorous evaluation for the safety of patient volunteers and accuracy of the data collected, according to Noreen. Guidelines are established by Central Institutional Review Boards, the sponsoring company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Why participate in a clinical trial?

Potential benefits include:

  • Access to the latest investigational medications, devices and treatments
  • Study-related care often exceeds the standard treatment
  • An opportunity to help others and advance medical research
  • Added reassurance due to intense post-study follow-up care and a connection with a study coordinator

About Doylestown Health's Heart & Vascular Services

Expert cardiologists and cardiac surgeons assist patients and physicians with managing risk factors for heart disease, offer advanced treatment options and provide outstanding emergency cardiac care. Doylestown Hospital’s accredited Chest Pain Center is fully prepared to treat cardiac emergencies around the clock, focusing on rapid diagnosis and effective treatment. The multidisciplinary team at the Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care is dedicated to providing the highest level of quality care and patient safety.

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