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The big freeze

Photos by Dan Bishop

February 2013

The Medtronic Arctic Front Advance balloon is the device that actually freezes the heart muscle to block the pathway causing the arrhythmia. 

The term "Arctic Freeze" conjures up uninviting images of blowing snow and biting cold temperatures. In medicine it gives patients an easier, safer and more effective way to treat atrial fibrillation, a common and potentially deadly heart condition. There are 400,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States every year.

Dr. Charles Lanzarotti, an electrophysiologist and medical director of cardiac electrophysiology at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare, is one of the most experienced physicians in the country at using Arctic Cryoablation, a new balloon technology that freezes abnormal tissue where the irregular heart rhythm starts.

Dr. Charles Lanzarotti and Greg Bauer, a registered invasive specialist, are positioning the cryo balloon. A technician maps the location of the heart arrhythmia.

"I am thrilled that we have this for our patients." Lanzarotti says, "In my own clinical experience I get better results with cryolablation." Lanzarotti floats a catheter through a vein in the patientís groin to the upper left chamber of the heart where the faulty heart rhythm starts. A computer helps him isolate abnormal electrical activity. He inserts a small, deflated balloon through the catheter to the problem spot, inflates the balloon with nitrous oxide and freezes the tissue creating a lesion that will block the irregular electrical impulses.

Ablation can be performed using heat for atrial fibrillation but dozens of lesions have to be created to cover the same area one balloon will treat. Freezing is also considered gentler and less likely to damage surrounding organs.

Lanzarotti shares a success. "A dairy farmer from northern Illinois came to me for a second opinion. Atrial fibrillation had weakened his heart to the point where it was failing and his physician was recommending a possible heart transplant. I treated him with a cryoablation. A year later he is cured. He is off medication and his heart is back to normal."


This story ran in the February 2013 issue of: