Patient Perspectives

Shannon Hamilton: Finally free of tachycardia

“Ever since I was a kid and until recently, I had tachycardia. I have to thank Dr. Kerwin and cryoablation for finally curing it and helping to improve my quality of life more than I can say.”
- Shannon Hamilton

Beginning in her childhood, Shannon Hamilton experienced troubling symptoms, including a racing heart beat, shortness of breath, dizziness, and pain in her throat and chest. EKGs revealed that she suffered from tachycardia – a sudden and very fast heart rate – that came on without warning and even without exertion on her part. At 14, Shannon was put on Inderol to control her tachycardia but found the medication made her feel tired much of the time. She also tried Digoxin and Verapamil, but these drugs had little effect on her arrhythmia.

Why did you decide to consult an electrophysiologist?

“I was tired of living with this condition and with the side effects of the medication I was taking. Someone I know who had heard of Dr. Kerwin at Cedars-Sinai suggested I go see him. Dr. Kerwin read my EKGs and diagnosed AVNRT (atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia), where two electrical pathways in the heart join at the AV node. He said it caused a short circuit, going round and round like a dog chasing its own tail.”

What course of action did Dr. Kerwin recommend?

“He said I was a good candidate for ablation, where a catheter is inserted into the heart through blood vessels and used to destroy the tissue responsible for the tachycardia. He also said that he would use a cryoablation catheter instead of an RF catheter because my arrhythmia was too close to the AV node. He didn’t want to risk damaging the AV node. He said freezing the tissue would be safer than using heat on it. He really put me at ease about the procedure and said it would probably get rid of my tachycardia for good.”

Can you tell us about the procedure and what happened afterwards?

“Well, the procedure took place in March 2005 and lasted almost 5 hours. Dr. Kerwin worked very carefully to find the exact spot near the AV node and froze the tissue that was causing the tachycardia.”

Have you felt any episodes since the cryoablation?

“Yes, two very brief episodes in the first week after the procedure, which Dr. Kerwin told me would probably happen. He said it was part of the recovery process and, not to worry, it wouldn’t come back. He was right: it didn’t come back after that. Not only is the tachycardia gone, but also the stress of living with the fact that it could happen at any time without warning. I can’t tell you what a blessing living without tachycardia is.”

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