Innovative Technology Provides New Hope for Florham Park Man With AFib

February 25, 2022

For years, Anthony Vesce, 63 from Florham Park, felt like his heartbeat was off. But it didn’t really bother him. “My mother and my uncles all had it, so I never paid attention to it,” he says. He worked out frequently, biking when the weather was nice, and hit the gym almost daily. 

The blips in his heart never slowed him down—until recently. He began to feel his heart race, then pause, then race again. He’d have to stop to catch his breath in the gym. Then it got so bad that his smart watch would wake him in the middle of the night. “It would tell me, ‘You appear to be at rest, but your heart rate is 120,’” he says.

Anthony started to worry—so much so that when he rode his bike, he kept his wife’s contact information on a slip of paper in case of an emergency.

Life-threatening Discovery

Anthony decided he needed to take action, so he made an appointment with Sanjeev Patel, M.D., a cardiologist at Hackensack University Medical Center. After an EKG, some scans and some blood work, Dr. Patel diagnosed Anthony with atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is an irregular heart rhythm. These disruptions in the rate and rhythm of the heart’s electrical system can be serious—even life threatening—and can increase the risk of stroke and congestive heart failure.

Dr. Patel put Anthony on a blood thinner to prevent clots and on medication to control his heart rate and rhythm. He told Anthony that his condition could be treated with surgery. “I told him, ‘I’m going to send you to the electrician,’” Dr. Patel says. By electrician, he meant electrophysiologist Grant Simons, M.D., chief of Heart Rhythm Services at Hackensack. “I try to match patients’ personalities to doctors, and Anthony was perfect for Dr. Simons.”

He was right. Anthony immediately felt a connection with Dr. Simons. “You know when you instantly get a sense that someone’s good at what they do? That’s how I felt as soon as I met Dr. Simons,” Anthony says.

Dr. Simons scheduled Anthony for a new procedure called cryoablation, which could restore Anthony’s heart to a normal rhythm by disabling the cells creating the irregular beat.

How Far He’s Come

During the minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Simons inserted a balloon catheter through a vein in Anthony’s groin. He then guided the catheter to the heart and used refrigerant to freeze and disable the cells that caused his AFib. “It’s like giving the cells frostbite,” says Dr. Simons.

Unlike prior techniques, using cold reduces the chance of blood clots and decreases the possibility of damaging the esophagus and veins around the heart. It’s also easier on the patient. “The cryo procedure means less time in surgery, and we don’t have to put a lot of fluid into the patient like we would with radiofrequency ablation, which means a quicker, less painful recovery,” says Dr. Simons.

Today, Anthony feels great, although he still keeps that slip of paper with his wife’s contact information handy. “I have it in my wallet, just to remind me where I was and how far I’ve come.”


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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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