Millions of Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation or A-fib, a condition that causes your heart to beat fast and out of rhythm. Now, a new treatment called the HeartLight is allowing doctors to see inside a beating heart and help get that heartbeat back to normal.
Bret Story suffers from the heart condition.
"It felt like my heart was going to explode," explained Story. "I thought I was probably having a heart attack."
Story is talking about his first episode of A-fib. It's the most common form of arrhythmia and can lead to stroke or heart attack. Story says over those years it happened more and more.
"Out of breath and zero energy," he said.
Story was picked to be one of the first people to undergo a new procedure. The HeartLight is a balloon catheter with a camera inserted through a tiny hole in the groin, giving doctors a new way to burn away the problem.
"We can actually look into the heart, which is fascinating," Dr. David E. Haines from Beaumont Hospital said. "To actually see the heart, the beating heart and to actually see the target right there in front of us."
Haines says traditional ablation treatments that purposely damage problem areas in the heart to fix it, aren't too precise.
"Very difficult to manipulate the catheter around," he explained.
Haines says the beating heart images he sees with the HeartLight allow him to aim and fire the laser more accurately to make a perfect line of burns around the problem area.
"Well, that's very powerful," said Haines.
It's been two years since Story's HeartLight treatment. He hasn't had an A-fib episode since.
"I can do anything I used to do," he said.
Haines says the HeartLight is designed for patients whose atrial fibrillation starts and stops by itself. People with chronic A-fib would need more treatment on top of the HeartLight procedure.
Recruiting for phase three trials of the HeartLight are going on right now at sites across the country.To learn more go to clinicaltrials.gov.