Safwat Gassis, MD, FACC, has joined Capital Cardiovascular Associates, a service of Holy Spirit Health System. Dr. Gassis is a cardiologist who offers the most advanced treatment options for heart rhythm disorders, including atrial fibrillation. He performed Pennsylvania’s first balloon cryoablation procedure to treat atrial fibrillation—the most common irregular heart rhythm—after its approval by the FDA in December 2010. The Ortenzio Heart Center at Holy Spirit currently is the only location in the greater Harrisburg area where this ablation technique is being performed. Dr. Gassis is among the most experienced electrophysiologists in the country using this ablation technique, an important factor shown to influence success rates.
Instead of using heat, as with traditional catheter ablation, balloon cryoablation uses a coolant to isolate entire regions of abnormal electricity from the rest of the heart to restore proper heart rhythm. “The freezing technique is less traumatic to the tissue and other structures around the heart,” explains Dr. Gassis. “It is also more efficient. The procedure takes less time and recovery for the patient is quicker.”
Half of all patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation do not respond to drug therapy. “Cryoablation has revolutionized catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation and offers patients a new treatment option,” says Dr. Gassis.
Approximately 3 million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation, and many more go undiagnosed. Untreated atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of death from heart-related causes, including congestive heart failure, increases the risk of stroke by 500 percent, and raises the risk of hospitalization.
A large clinical trial found that almost 70 percent of patients treated with cryoablation therapy were free from atrial fibrillation one year later, compared to approximately seven percent using only drug therapy. Additionally, those treated with cryoablation had a significant decrease in symptoms and need for drug therapy, and they had substantial improvement in their quality of life.
Dr. Gassis uses the Medtronic Arctic Front® Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter System. It has been used to treat more than 20,000 patients in 200 centers worldwide.
Holy Spirit will open a new Atrial Fibrillation Center (AFC) in February and Dr. Gassis will be the medical director. The AFC will provide patients with access to state-of-the-art diagnostic and treatment options for atrial fibrillation to decrease their risk of stroke and congestive heart failure. “The care for patients with atrial fibrillation will be individualized,” explains Dr. Gassis. “Treatment will be tailored to suit each patient’s specific situation, including how the rhythm disorder affects his or her ability to function, its effect on heart function, risk of complications from the arrhythmia, as well as patient preference.”
Capital Cardiovascular Associates provides services to diagnose and treat even the most complex cardiovascular problems. Their offices are located at 101 Erford Road, Camp Hill and 5 Capital Drive, Harrisburg. The phone number is 724-6450. All of the physicians and physician assistants continue to provide services to patients at Holy Spirit, as well as the PinnacleHealth hospitals.