Transformational Procedure Treats Heart Pauses in a Young Patient
Emily Kyte was just 7 years old the first time she fainted. It was the first of many episodes.
Due to this concerning phenomenon she was connected with a team of specialists for treatment and symptom management that extended into her adult life. Not knowing when the fainting episodes would occur made it hard for Emily to live a normal life. She couldn’t drive or participate in many usual activities because they would be dangerous if she lost consciousness. “I didn’t feel very hopeful that there was any way to treat my condition,” she said.
Managing her condition for years, it wasn’t until she was living in Somerville, MA, and working with specialists in the Boston area that she got a concrete diagnosis. It was confirmed that Emily’s brief loss of consciousness was the result of a serious, chronic heart condition known as Malignant Vasovagal Syncope.
When her condition became the most severe, a Holter monitor revealed she suffered an episode with her heart stopping for 18 to 20 seconds.
Malignant Vasovagal Syncope can occur when the part of the nervous system that regulates heart rate and blood pressure malfunctions. Left untreated, it can cause serious problems and even death. Often, cardiac surgeons will implant a pacemaker to regulate Vasovagal Syncope patients’ heartbeat, but many prefer not to choose that treatment option in patients as young as Emily, who is now 28, if other options are available.
Analyzing options, Emily’s Boston cardiologist read about the work of Southcoast Health’s cardiac electrophysiologist Dr. Nitesh Sood, Director of Southcoast Health’s Atrial Fibrillation Wellness Program at Charlton Memorial Hospital in Fall River.
Dr. Sood performed one of the first cardioneural ablation procedures in the United States in 2022 using radio frequency catheter ablation to modify the heart’s electrical signals. Treating a patient with a similar condition to Emily’s, Dr. Sood consulted with the Turkish cardiologist who had first used the procedure.
“18 seconds is almost three times longer than typical heart pauses in many patients with Malignant Vasovagal Syncope can experience,” said Dr. Sood. “Successful cardioneural ablation can treat this condition and stop these episodes from happening.”
“For a patient Emily’s age, it is a great option to provide a permanent fix to this condition. Alternatively, getting a pacemaker would be a constant reminder that something is wrong in addition to requiring up-keep throughout her life.”
Dr. Sood was able to treat Emily by performing the ablation using a catheter, allowing her to avoid a long hospital stay or surgical complications.
“I was nervous at first because I never had any surgical procedure before, but the whole thing was very smooth,” said Emily. “The entire team was very supportive, reassuring and kept me well informed the entire time.”
Emily’s care team at Southcoast Health has been carefully tracking her heart rhythm since April 2023 when the procedure was performed. This has been done with a small implantable device that tracks her every heat beat called implantable loop recorder. Since then, her heart has not paused for a single second.
“This has been completely life-changing,” Emily said. “Before the procedure, I was in graduate school to become a clinical social worker and always wanted to work full-time, but my family and I didn’t know if that would ever be a possibility. It’s exciting now to be able to set clear plans and live a normal life.”
Learn More about the Southcoast Health Heart and Vascular Center at Charlton Memorial here.