Years ago, Christine Zastrow was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, a condition in which the mitral valve does not close completely. However, during a recent annual checkup, she was surprised to be diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat resulting from abnormal electrical signals in the atria, or upper chambers of the heart.
“I had not experienced any symptoms,” says Ms. Zastrow, 53. “I’ve been playing tennis since I was a young girl and I was still playing three or four times a week.”
In individuals with atrial fibrillation, the atria quiver instead of squeeze to eject blood from the heart with each heartbeat. As a result, the amount of blood ejected from the heart is decreased and may not be enough to meet the needs of the body. Atrial fibrillation can lead to a higher risk for stroke, heart attack or heart failure.
After undergoing a few unsuccessful procedures at another hospital to treat her atrial fibrillation, Ms. Zastrow began researching other options. Ultimately, she decided to find out if she was a candidate for the Classic Maze procedure, which is considered to be the “gold standard” for treating her condition. With this approach, the surgeon creates barriers in the atria that force electrical signals to travel in a normal pattern to restore the heart rhythm.
She chose to seek treatment at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute’s Center for Atrial Fibrillation. Here, atrial fibrillation is treated with a team approach that includes consultation with a range of specialists such as electrophysiologists, cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. The center is led by medical director Jeffrey J. Goldberger, MD, and surgical director Richard Lee, MD. Dr. Goldberger is a cardiac electrophysiologist on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial, the director of Cardiac Electrophysiology Research and professor of Medicine at the Feinberg School. Dr. Lee is a cardiac surgeon on the medical staff at Northwestern Memorial and associate professor of Surgery at the Feinberg School.
“I did some research and learned that the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute has some of the best results with this procedure,” Ms. Zastrow explains.
In September of 2007, Ms. Zastrow underwent a Classic Maze procedure and a mitral valve repair.
“My heart has been in a normal rhythm ever since the surgery,” she says. “I don’t even think about it anymore. I’m back to playing tennis and having fun!”