Two surgeries, one day

It’s hard enough to mentally and physically prepare for one surgery. Imagine the stress of preparing for multiple procedures. A local hospital is helping ease the burden for patients by providing a two-in-one procedure to treat people with a certain type of irregular heartbeat.

At UF Health Jacksonville, patients can receive “convergent” heart surgery to treat atrial fibrillation, a condition that affects as many as 6.1 million people in the United States, according to the CDC.

“I didn’t have any symptoms. It never affected me at all,” 72-year-old Thomas Faulkner said of his atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AFib. “And I just wanted to find out what I had to do to get it corrected.”

“[AFib] does put them at increased risk for stroke or embolism where a clot can form in the heart and kind of flick off and go to other parts of the body,” Dr. Jack Pirris, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at UF Health Jacksonville, said.

Dr. Pirris recommended convergent heart surgery for Faulkner. In layman’s terms, it’s two surgeries done back-to-back, under one general anesthetic.

First, Dr. Pirris does what’s called an ablation on the outside of the heart. Then Electrophysiologist Dr. John Catanzaro does the same to the inside of the heart.

“And that scar essentially, over three months, develops to a point where it inhibits or doesn’t let those signals that cause atrial fibrillation get into the heart,” Dr. Catanzaro said.

Both doctors told First Coast News convergent surgery is the safest and most convenient approach for patients.

“We make it more comfortable and more convenient for the patient and their family by doing it all at the same time,” Dr. Pirris said.

Dr. Pirris said they’re the only center in the area to do both procedures at one time in this fashion.

“Thank you very much,” Faulkner said, expressing gratitude to his physicians. “I appreciate everything you did for me and my family.”