Treating Australia’s ‘growing epidemic’

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Hollywood Private Hospital has launched a new training program to help increase the availability of an innovative heart treatment for patients across Australia.

The Perth facility is the only one in the southern hemisphere offering a specialist procedure for people with long-standing, persistent atrial fibrillation (AF).

Cardiothoracic surgeon Mr Pragnesh Joshi and cardiac electrophysiologist Professor Rukshen Weerasooriya are sharing their skills in performing Hybrid Catheter Ablation and Surgical Ablation (HyCASA) – a minimally-invasive technique that restores the heart’s normal rhythm. 

They expect to train 12 teams in the next 18 months – the first intake included clinicians from Victoria’s Peninsula Private Hospital.

“All participants need to be fully briefed on a new procedure for optimal outcomes for the patient,” Prof Weerasooriya said of the program, which is also being offered to specialists in New Zealand and the Asia Pacific region. 

AF, which affects two percent of Australians, is an abnormal heart rhythm caused by erratic electrical signals in the heart.

It increases the risk of stroke, heart failure, chronic fatigue, decreased activity levels and a diminished quality of life, and accounted for more than 72,000 hospitalisations in Australia in 2017-18 along with nine percent of deaths. 

Prof Weerasooriya is on the medical advisory committee for patient support group Heart4Heart, which hopes HyCASA can become an important alternative treatment for those at severe risk. 

“These are the patients with the most debilitating levels of atrial fibrillation where no other therapy has proven successful,” Hearts4Heart CEO Tanya Hall said. 

“Given atrial fibrillation is a growing epidemic in Australia, patient access to HyCASA is essential.”

The CONVERGE clinical trial found the hybrid procedure was more effective than endocardial catheter ablation alone for treating persistent AF, which is present in almost half of patients with the condition. 

“We would like to see more surgeons being trained in HyCASA so that it is accessible for all patients, in all states across Australia,” Ms Hall added. 

Hollywood Private Hospital has treated more than 80 patients with HyCASA in the past three years, and the team is sharing its experiences and outcomes via podium presentations at Australian and international clinical conferences. 

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