CryoMaze: A Surgical Treatment For Atrial Fibrillation

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Heart Disease: On March 8, 2006, beginning at 5 pm, EST, (22:00 UTC) the University of Maryland Heart Center's division of cardiac surgery will present a webcast of a CryoMaze procedure, which uses cryoablation to surgically treat atrial fibrillation (AF). Surgeon James Gammie, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, will demonstrate this method of using CryoCath's Argon-powered cold probe to create electrical barriers in the upper chamber of the heart. By freezing the atrial tissue for about a minute, electrical activity is permanently blocked. Research data suggests that 85 to 90 percent of patients are cured of AF following this procedure.

"We have taken an aggressive stance toward the treatment of atrial fibrillation in patients requiring cardiac surgery – our approach is to perform the CryoMaze procedure on any patient with AF who needs heart surgery," explains Dr. Gammie.

In the United States, there are an estimated 160,000 new cases of atrial fibrillation diagnosed annually. Currently, more than 2.5 million Americans have this type of arrhythmia and its prevalence is only expected to rise, as the condition is age related Classified as the most common type of abnormal heart beat, AF is associated with more than 70,000 deaths each year and is the primary factor in 15-20% of all strokes. AF leads to an impaired quality of life and reduced functionality. Those afflicted have lower exercise tolerance, palpitations, fatigue, and dizziness.

Today, most cases of AF are treated with a course of drug therapy that either thins the blood or slows down the heart rate. Drugs may have to be taken as many as four times a day and have serious side effects that include low blood pressure, lung damage, nausea, and dizziness.

The CryoMaze is the next evolution of the Cox-Maze procedure, introduced in 1987. The Cox-Maze requires surgeons to cut the upper chamber of the heart and then sew it back together, ultimately creating this barrier for the electric current. Rather than having to "cut and sew," surgeons have tried to come up with effective energy sources to create these divisions. Heat is an option, as is cryoablation.

Dr. Gammie continues, "The CryoMaze is fast and simple to perform, and remarkably effective. We think that the potential benefits to having a surgical cure for AF are substantial. These include a lower risk of stroke, the potential for stopping blood thinners, and amelioration of symptoms."

Cryoablation is a viable solution to treat AF. Its positive attributes outweigh the current drug therapy and heat-based surgical options. Most importantly, cryoablation is effective. Clinical testing has demonstrated strong success rates.

Most often, the CryoMaze procedure is performed in conjunction with another cardiac operation, such as a mitral valve repair. It adds roughly 30 minutes to the surgery. When performed as a stand-alone procedure, the CryoMaze can be done minimally-invasively through a 2-inch incision on the right side of the chest.

A study published by Dr. Gammie in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery (September 2005, Vol. 80, no.3) - "A Multi-Institutional Experience With the CryoMaze procedure" - demonstrated successful results. Ninety-five percent or 35 of 37 patients, were in normal sinus rhythm at a mean follow-up of 12 months.

This webcast is supported in part by an educational grant(s) from CryoCath Technologies Inc.

Dr. Gammie is a consultant to CryoCath, serving on its surgical advisory board. He also has received an unrestricted research grant from CryoCath.

About CryoCath
CryoCath is a medical technology company that leads the world in cryotherapy products to treat cardiovascular disease. With a priority focus on providing physicians with a complete solution of catheter and surgical products to treat cardiac arrhythmias, CryoCath has multiple products approved in the U.S., across Europe and several ROW countries.



James Gammie

James Gammie, MD