In this health video learn how researchers are testing a new tool to stop the recurrence of one of the most common heart problems.
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Jennifer Mathews: Fifty-six-year-old Tom Calvaresi is the driving force behind his family winery. So when his heart started feeling funny, he did not ignore it. Tom Calvaresi: I could feel it like flutter a little bit. Kind of like if you overuse a muscle, you can feel it jumping around a little bit and your arm or something -- Well, I felt this in my chest. Jennifer Mathews: Doctors diagnosed Tom with atrial fibrillation. It's a condition that occurs when the heart's electrical pulses short circuit causing changes to the speed or rhythm of the heartbeat. Left untreated, AF can increase the risk of stroke. The disorder threatened Tom's livelihood. Tom Calvaresi: I have to be able to drink wine in order to stay in this business and be at the top of my game, and alcohol is one of the triggers. Jennifer Mathews: Right now, surgeons use what is called a catheter ablation to turn pulmonary vein tissue into scar tissue, so electrical pulses can't get through. Doctors make dozens of lesions in a dotted pattern around the vein. But it is not always a success. Dr. David Callans is testing a new system designed to stop the recurrence of atrial fibrillation using high-intensity focused ultrasound. Dr. David Callans: It's deployed on a balloon. The balloon can fit kind of around the top of the pulmonary veins. Jennifer Mathews: He says, with this procedure, the ultrasound is delivered very precisely. Dr. Callans says the symptoms of AF shouldn't come back. It took three traditional ablation procedures to make Tom's symptoms go away. Now, he says it's good to know a new kind of help may soon be available, if his heart problems come back. This is Jennifer Mathews reporting.