Overcoming A-Fib at Emory

My name is Bill Hughes. I’m 73 years of age, and I’ve lived in West Point, Georgia for 25 years. For 35 years, I was employed by Neptune Technology Group, a company that manufactures and distributes water meters and automatic meter reading systems. When I retired in 2000, I was the national sales manager for water distribution. Now, I work as a consultant. I’m married, and I have two children and two grandchildren.

I first came to Emory Heart and Vascular in January of this year. Prior to this, I’d been seeing a cardiologist for about two and a half years for what they call “a-fib”, or atrial fibrillation. My heart was beating out of rhythm, and the situation was worsening. Despite all of my heart regulation medications, my heart just couldn’t stay in rhythm.

At one point, I was hospitalized for about three days while the doctors administered a very strong heart-regulating drug. Unfortunately, my body just wouldn’t accept it, and I had several unpleasant side effects from it. And still, the medication wasn’t keeping me in rhythm.

When you suffer from A-fib, you basically feel horrible the majority of the time. You lose all of your energy and strength, and feel as though you can hardly do anything—it’s as though you just exist. Sufficed to say, it was incredibly depressing for me. After dealing with A-fib for two and a half years, I had forgotten what it felt like to feel normal.

At that point, my cardiologist recommended Dr. DeLurgio at Emory, and suggested that he examine my case in order to pinpoint what type of procedure would improve my condition. I was concerned that it would be difficult to schedule an appointment with a heart doctor, but the folks at Emory were able to see me right away.

After he performed a thorough examination, Dr. DeLurgio informed me that my A-fib condition was a fairly severe case, and decided that I needed to have radiofrequency ablation. I had three procedures between January and March. During the first procedure I had some bleeding, so we had to stop the surgery. A few weeks later, they performed the second ablation, this time with much better results. Although I was feeling better than I had in a long time, I went back into the hospital a third time because I was experiencing what they call a “flutter”. The doctors determined that they needed to go back in one more time and fix whatever circuitry wasn’t working properly. This was completed in March, and was a total success.

I really appreciated how Dr. DeLurgio explained the ablation procedure beforehand and set the right expectations with me. In the beginning, he let me know that I may require more than one ablation procedure due to the severity and complexity of my case. From the start, I never doubted him or had any concerns.

Everyone at Emory treated me as though my case was very special. The nurses and physician’s assistants did a wonderful job of preparing me for the surgery. At the hospital, from the time I checked in to the time I left, everything went incredibly smoothly. I feel very fortunate to have been at Emory and to have had Dr. DeLurgio as my doctor.

Now, I’m feeling better every day, and I no longer have to take nearly as much medication, which is a huge advantage. I’m 73 years young and back in the gym, back on the golf course, and life is good again.

From Dr. DeLurgio:

Mr. Hughes represents a case of a patient with “permanent” atrial fibrillation. This is a more severe and far-progressed variety. Typically, treatment options are limited. Using advanced techniques, however, we were able to achieve excellent results while avoiding major surgical intervention. It is very gratifying to see how much improvement in his quality life Mr. Hughes has gained.

About David DeLurgio, MD:

Dr. DeLurgio has been practicing medicine at Emory since 1996. His specialties include Internal Medicine, Cardiology, Electrophysiology, and Cardiac Electrophysiology. Additionally, his areas of clinical interest include arrhythmias, atrial fibrillation and ablation therapy, prevention of sudden cardiac death, and treatment of heart failure with medical devices. Dr. DeLurgio holds organizational leadership memberships with the American College of Cardiology, the American College of Physicians, the Heart Failure Society, and the Heart Rhythm Society.

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  • Lee K.

    In reference to the symptoms of Mr. Hughes did he suffer debillitating fatigue all the time? If so, what is the reason why atrial fibrillation would cause such fatigue? The reason why I ask this question is that I went into permanent atrial fibrillation in 2007. When I did, I suffered such fatigue that I was unable to work. I have gone to three different cardiologist and they say that I must have something else going on because my atrial fibrillation should not be causing that much fatigue. Any input you would have would be greatly appreciated.

    • Dr. De Lurgio

      Hi Lee,
      While I can’t speak to your specific situation without seeing you in-person, I can give you some general information that should help out.

      Most people feel very fatigued when they go into atrial fibrillation. There are several reasons for this, and it does vary from patient to patient. To understand why AF produces fatigue, think back to when you were a kid and your bicycle got a flat. Every kid quickly learns that the most efficient way to pump up a tire is with full even strokes. Your heart is a pump, too, and it will be most efficient when it beats regularly with nice, full strokes. When you go into AF, your heartbeat becomes irregular and you lose the contribution of the upper chambers. Often the pulse becomes very rapid, too. Imagine trying to pump up a tire using very rapid and irregular herky-jerky strokes instead of nice even full ones. It just doesn’t work as well! Medicines that slow the pulse will help, but restoring normal rhythm usually is the best solution.

      Thank you and I hope this helped!

      Dr. De Lurgio