Lauren's Story

And the Beat Goes On: Ablation Returns 28-Year-Old’s Heart Rhythm to Normal

When 28-year-old Lauren Arnold experienced sporadic episodes of heart palpitations and neck pain, she did what most of us do – rested for a couple of minutes until it went away. She didn’t think much about these symptoms that typically lasted for just 5 to 10 minutes because she was an otherwise healthy young woman who had annual check-ups with her primary care physician.

However, one day in March 2016, Lauren was at work when another episode occurred. But this time, it didn’t go away. After 20 minutes of heart palpitations, she knew she needed medical assistance. She went to the health center at her office, where they discovered that she had a heart rate of 250 beats per minute. That’s significantly higher than the normal heart rate for an adult, which is 60 to 100 beats per minute.

The nurse at her company’s health center encouraged Lauren to immediately go to the emergency department of University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center, which is across the street from where she works in Beachwood. She was taken there by ambulance. At the ER, Lauren was placed on intravenous medicines to help regulate her heart rhythm, with discharge instructions to contact a UH electrophysiologist.

At her brother-in-law’s suggestion, Lauren reached out to Judith Mackall, MD, clinical cardiac electrophysiologist at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute and Associate Professor of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

“When I met Dr. Mackall, I was very pleased,” said Lauren. “She’s so calm, and also one of the most thorough doctors I’ve ever been to. When you have an issue with your heart, it can be very nerve-wracking, but I felt very confident in her.”

Upon examination of Lauren’s test results and case history, Dr. Mackall reviewed the options that Lauren could choose from to treat her condition, called supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT.

“She told me that I could take medication for the rest of my life to treat my SVT, or have an ablation procedure that would be a permanent fix,” said Lauren. “At 28 years old, the prospect of taking medication for the rest of my life didn’t appeal to me, so after discussing it with my husband, I decided to move forward with the ablation.”

Ablation is a technique used by electrophysiologists to destroy tissue in the heart that is causing the abnormal heartbeat. Long, thin wires are advanced under fluoroscopic guidance to the patient’s heart via a small incision in the groin. Then, radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave energy) produces heat that eliminates a small, specific area of tissue.

Lauren’s ablation procedure took place on April 4, 2016 at UH Cleveland Medical Center, and she was discharged home the next day. Just two days later, she returned to work.

Having had no further episodes, Lauren is feeling terrific, and is grateful to Dr. Mackall and UH for providing such excellent care. “I had a very pleasant experience at UH,” said Lauren. “Everyone involved in my case was thorough and patient, including my nurses. I would recommend UH to anyone.”

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