Friday, November 30, 2007

A rhythm thrown off

James Puzinas, a 47-year-old fine art dealer from Massachusetts, has a rhythm in his life. He spends his days buying and selling American paintings around the country and living an active lifestyle - working outdoors, swimming, bicycling and downhill skiing.

When he started feeling exhausted after doing simple yard work, Puzinas’s rhythm was thrown off, but he attributed the heaviness in his legs to age.

“I started to feel things that I didn’t feel before,” says Puzinas, “including lightheadedness and the occasional lack of concentration.”

But it didn’t stop there. When biking, he noticed strange readings on the heart monitor strapped to his chest. And there was a clear inconsistency in his blood pressure readings from day-to-day.

“For someone my age, the idea of living with those symptoms was very upsetting. You don’t want that,” says Puzinas.

The symptoms brought Puzinas, a high blood pressure patient, to his doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital to question the effectiveness of his blood pressure medication. Here he learned the inconsistency in his blood pressure had to do with atrial fibrillation.
A Rhythm Thrown OffAn estimated 2.2 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation, a heart condition where electrical signals in the atria (the two small chambers of the heart) are fired in a very fast and uncontrolled manner. Though millions across the United States experience atrial fibrillation, Puzinas believes few truly understand the condition.

A relatively healthy, athletic guy, Puzinas had trouble understanding how a 47-year-old could have a heart condition. So he turned to the Web for support and was surprised at what he read.

“I remember reading a lot about this guy’s story and that guy’s story. And I got a feeling that this was not an old person’s disease; it was something that afflicted younger people too. I related a lot to some of the testimonials I read,” says Puzinas.
Getting Back Into the RhythmReferred to Moussa Mansour, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center Cardiac Arrhythmia Service, Puzinas received care tailored to his condition and lifestyle. Mansour determined that a drug regimen was not fully effective and could not be a long-term solution for someone with such an active lifestyle.

In July 2007 Mansour successfully treated Puzinas’ condition with a procedure called pulmonary vein isolation. He spent one, long day in the hospital, but afterwards he felt the benefits of a rewired heart beating in normal sinus rhythm. The effects were immediate.

“I could breathe easier and felt in many ways twenty years younger,” says Puzinas.

Mansour explained that during the procedure, catheters are inserted into the blood vessels leading to the left atrium and the pulmonary veins. Energy (ablation) is delivered from the tip of one the catheters to the area surrounding the pulmonary veins to block the exit of abnormal impulses.

“This procedure eliminates atrial fibrillation in the majority of the patients with this condition,” says Mansour.

For Puzinas, the surgery means he can once again enjoy the simple things that make up the rhythm of his life. He can get back into skiing, bicycling around Massachusetts, and continuing his career as a successful fine art dealer.

“Sometimes you don’t know what you have until you it’s gone. I am grateful to be feeling like myself again” says Puzinas.

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