An avid cyclist, personal chef and business owner, Theo Petron of Newtown was leading an active, healthy lifestyle, until a rapid heartbeat due to atrial fibrillation (AFib), got in the way.
A problem with the heart's rate or rhythm, AFib causes the heart to beat with an irregular rhythm. The electrical signals that regulate heart rate become abnormal, causing the heart's upper chambers to beat out of sync with the lower chambers. The condition interferes with blood flow in the heart, which increases risk for blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart complications.
Watch Theo's Story
AFib Gets in the Way
"AFib completely disrupted my life," says Theo, who operates a culinary services business, delivering customized meals to client's homes and offering in-home chef experiences, with his life and business partner Melissa Wieczorek.
"I regularly cycled three times a week, from 25 to 50 miles at a time, but eventually, even the smallest hills started putting me into AFib," says Theo. "I could feel my heart beating like a random, crazy drum solo in my chest."
"It would be challenging to work when I was in AFib. I could never get a full, cleansing breath to feel relaxed," says Theo.
Theo tried lifestyle changes and medication but got no relief. "I can't stand taking pills of any kind. I just didn't want to be taking pills to manage this condition for the rest of my life," he explained.
An Information Session
"One day, we received a magazine from Doylestown Health in the mail. Melissa was flipping through and saw that a cardiologist was giving an informational talk on AFib, so we decided to check it out," says Theo.
That's where the couple met Doylestown Health electrophysiologist Robert Sangrigoli, MD, and learned about cryoablation.
"I immediately felt a comfort level with Dr. Sangrigoli," said Theo, who made an appointment with him to go over treatment options.
Causes and Symptoms
AFib is the result of damage to the heart's structure. Potential causes include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, sleep apnea, viral infection, and stimulants such as caffeine, tobacco or alcohol.
While some patients cannot tell when they are in AFib, others experience heart racing or fluttering. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, fatigue, weakness, dizziness and confusion.
"At Doylestown Health, our focus is to create an individualized care plan to meet each patient's needs," says Dr. Sangrigoli.
"Theo had paroxysmal and refractory atrial fibrillation, which is more common in younger, active people. We personalized the treatment plan to best suit Theo."
Treatment options vary depending on the type of arrhythmia a patient may have and can include:
- Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle
- Medication to reduce the frequency and recurrence of AFib
- Device therapy (pacemakers and defibrillators)
- Catheter-based ablation (radiofrequency and cryoablation)
- Convergent ablation surgery
Ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure that blocks the abnormal electrical pathways in the heart that cause AFib.
"Theo is a young, active person, so ablation was a good option to get him back to enjoying his activities, while eliminating decades of medication therapy," says Dr. Sangrigoli.
Opting for cryoablation, Dr. Sangrigoli used the balloon-based freezing technology to ablate a circle of tissue around Theo's problematic pathway, isolating the electrical impulses and eliminating Theo's AFib.
Doylestown Health is one of the highest volume ablation centers in the Philadelphia region, with success rates comparable to leading AFib centers across the United States.
Seamless Care with a Personal Touch
"All I had to do was be a patient. I showed up and everything was arranged," says Theo, "The people in the Cardiac Catheterization Lab were friendly, caring and professional. Dr. Sangrigoli had showed me a video of the cryoablation in the office, so I was informed and confident on the day of the procedure."
Back to Normal
"At my follow-up appointment, Dr. Sangrigoli said everything looks good. He told me to resume life as planned, noting that there's still an outside chance that I may need a tune-up at some point," recalls Theo.
Now, well over a year out from his procedure, Theo says he's feeling great, back to enjoying his life and without AFib.
Doylestown Health's AFib Center
As part of Doylestown Health's Woodall Center for Heart and Vascular Care, the AFib Center offers a complete range of heart arrhythmia treatments, from medical management to complex minimally-invasive ablation procedures. Doylestown Hospital is one of the top programs in the region in terms of success, safety and volumes performing procedures to treat irregular heartbeats.
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.