Health Team

UNC cardiologist pioneers treatment for atrial fibrillation

Posted March 24, 2011
Updated March 30, 2011

— In patients with atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart beat out of rhythm.

With difficult to treat cases, patients chose between two solutions: scarring the heart from inside with an ablation catheter or doing the same thing on the outside in open-heart surgery.

Both procedures offer a 50 to 70 percent chance of success.

Dr. Andy Kiser, a cardio-thoracic surgeon at UNC Hospitals, pioneered the convergent procedure, a new minimally invasive method that uses both approaches at the same time. It offers 80 to 90 percent success rates.

“This is a great example of teamwork to have the cardiac surgeon working side by side with the cardiologist,” Kiser said.

“When we work together, the patient gets the best of both worlds,” UNC cardiologist Dr. Paul Mounsey said.

Kiser brought the convergent procedure to UNC, which is also offered at Duke University Medical Center.

Instead of opening the chest, Kiser approaches the heart laparoscopically just below the breast bone.

“Through that hole, I can then put the camera into the sac that's around the heart and operate on the heart while it's still beating,” Kiser said. UNC offers new treatment for atrial fibrillation UNC offers new treatment for atrial fibrillation

Heating elements scar the heart to redirect electrical impulses. Then, Mounsey takes over, reaching the inside of the heart with an ablation catheter. A 3-D model helps him map areas that need scarring.

Many patients achieve normal heart rhythm during surgery, while most others achieve it soon after, giving them a new chance for a normal life.

About 60 convergent procedures have been performed in North Carolina.

Kiser travels the country to teach other teams of cardiologists and cardiac surgeons how to do the procedure.


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  • mdac Mar 29, 2011

    Clarification: Dr. Kiser developed the convergent procedure when he was a cardiac surgeon in Pinehurst. He joined UNC as a cardiac surgeon last fall (he is a UNC graduate, and did his medical training at UNC). So, the procedure has been offered in Pinehurst and now it is offered at UNC.

  • pmck Mar 28, 2011

    UNC is the only place in NC to offer this procedure. Other treatments are available at other hospitals but not this one.

  • AF Flight Nurse Mar 28, 2011

    Congratulations on another upgrade in cardiology services at UNC Hospitals.

  • MomOfTwins Mar 25, 2011

    Really bothemyth? Because Duke's never offered it as an option to my husband...

  • bothemyth Mar 25, 2011

    Sorry but Duke and Pinehurst also do this procedure.