Chris's story: Atrial fibrillation

Since he was a teenager, Chris (now 44) had suffered from an irregular heartbeat. Whenever his heart would beat too fast, he was told he was having a panic attack.

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As he got older, his conditioned worsened and the rapid heartbeats became more frequent. Chris contracted COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic, which he believes exacerbated the problem.

Jumping or even a simple yawn would see his heart race abnormally – going from 200 beats per minute and then dropping to 60 within a second. This rollercoaster of highs and lows could last for up to 20 minutes. He was taken to hospital in an ambulance twice, believing he was having a heart attack.

‘It got ridiculous,’ says Chris. ‘I just couldn’t live like that.’ It was then he decided to see his GP. Chris was referred for tests, and a heart specialist recommended that he see Dr Afzal Sohaib at The Wellington Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

Receiving a diagnosis

Dr Sohaib is a leading Consultant Cardiologist and has a special interest in the management of heart rhythm disorders. He diagnosed Chris with atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF is a condition that causes an irregular, often very fast, heart rhythm. It’s the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and occurs when the heart’s two upper chambers produce out-of-control electrical signals. These are then sent to the heart’s lower chambers, causing them to also beat rapidly.

In Chris’s case, he had an extra electrical connection in the heart (called an accessory pathway), which was triggering AF. Dr Sohaib told Chris that he would need a cardiac ablation, which can correct the abnormal heart rhythms of AF.

Receiving a diagnosis after so many years came as a huge relief to Chris and he was keen to have the procedure carried out.

‘When I met Dr Sohaib, I knew instantly he was the right man for the job. He assured me it would all be all right,’ he says. 

Cardiac ablation surgery

Chris underwent a cardiac ablation procedure at The Wellington Hospital in 2021. ‘I felt so comfortable with Dr Sohaib. I knew what was going to happen and I trusted him,’ he says. ‘I felt safe. Absolutely safe.’

The procedure was carried out via the groin. Dr Sohaib inserted a small flexible tube into a vein at the top of Chris’s leg and guided fine wires (catheters) through the tube and into his heart.

Once Dr Sohaib had identified the tissue in the heart that was causing the arrhythmia, it was destroyed with a beam of radiofrequency energy. This corrected Chris’s heartbeat.

Chris stayed at The Wellington Hospital overnight and was discharged the following day. ‘It couldn’t have gone any better,’ says Chris, who noticed an instant improvement.

It took just three weeks from Chris seeing his GP to having the cardiac ablation, which was arranged through his private healthcare policy.

Since the procedure, Chris hasn’t experienced any atrial fibrillation episodes and has made some healthy changes to his lifestyle. He has seen Dr Sohaib for his annual check-up and knows that if there are any problems in the future, HCA UK will arrange for him to see Dr Sohaib as quickly as possible, giving him complete peace of mind.

Find out more about the cardiac care we offer at The Wellington Hospital

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