First ever UK procedure for new atrial fibrillation technique at Royal Papworth

Drs Martin and Heck (middle, blue gowns) led the team during the UK first procedure at Royal Papworth Hospital.

Drs Martin and Heck (middle, blue gowns) led the team during the UK first procedure at Royal Papworth Hospital. - Credit: Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

A team at Royal Papworth Hospital has performed the UK’s first atrial fibrillation ablation using a new, innovative type of technology designed to improve safety and efficiency.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disturbance, affecting around 1.4 million people in the UK. It causes debilitating and life-limiting symptoms such as palpitations, breathlessness and fatigue.

The team which performed the UK’s first pulsed field ablation on June 13 was led by consultant cardiologists Dr Claire Martin, Dr Patrick Heck and Dr David Begley, supported by nurses, cardiac physiologists and radiographers.

Dr Martin said: “This technology marks a step-change in electrophysiology and may well be the future of treating atrial fibrillation with catheter ablations.

“I am very proud of the team for making Royal Papworth Hospital the first centre in the UK to offer this technology to benefit our AF patients across the East of England. Thank you to everyone involved for their hard work in making this happen.”

Until now, catheter ablations to treat AF have mostly used thermal energy by either burning or freezing problematic heart tissue. However, this carries a risk of damaging neighbouring tissue such as the oesophagus or the phrenic nerve, which controls the diaphragm.

A new technology – called FARAPULSE PFA by Boston Scientific – uses a non-thermal electric field energy source that targets heart tissue whilst avoiding damage to these other structures.

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Early studies from Europe have shown excellent outcomes and low complication rates using this new system.

Royal Papworth will also be the lead centre in the UK for the upcoming Advantage-AF trial, which will collect further data on the effectiveness of this technique.