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Source: Waikato District Health Board

In a national first, a Waikato Hospital cardiology team successfully completed a Pulsed Field Ablation (PFA) procedure yesterday to treat atrial fibrillation.

The Waikato Cardiology team involved in Tuesday’s procedure

Cardiologist, Associate Professor Martin Stiles, described PFA as a minimally invasive procedure involving a physician team threading a catheter (a thin, flexible tube) through a vein in the groin, guiding it into the patient’s heart and “ablating” veins at the back of the heart.

“Traditionally, we delivered hot or cold energy into the patient’s heart tissue, creating scars that help to break-up electrical signals which cause irregular heartbeats.

“PFA achieves the same thing using a ‘non-thermal’ electrical pulse to irreversibly damage the target cells while sparing the non-target tissue, which conveniently have a higher threshold for damage. PFA is faster and safer as adjacent structures are not heated or frozen.

“While recovery times between the two types of treatment are similar, due to PFA procedures being faster, we anticipate more day-stay rather than overnight stays being required which will free up hospital beds.”

While PFA has been used in cancer treatment for about a decade, Assoc Prof Stiles said it has only recently been used in treating the heart.

“The technology is brand new. It has been used in Europe since mid-2021, was introduced in Australia last year, and, as of Tuesday, is now here.

“Using the previous technique we used to complete two cases a day. Tuesday was our first day and we did three. I expect that eventually we will be able to complete four per day.”