Solutions for Atrial Fibrillation

TUCSON, Ariz.– More than 2.2 million people with cardiac problems are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, a rapid irregular heartbeat that occurs post-cardiac surgery.

Cam Empens had his first heart attack 10 years ago. As time passed his condition worsened and he underwent surgery for an automatic internal cardiac defibrillator.

“I passed out and my defibrillator shocked me as I was plowing down the chain link fence between the freeway and the frontage road,” Empens said.

Empens said if not for the automatic internal cardiac defibrillator he may not be alive today.

To help patients who are affected by atrial fibrillation, Dr. Zain Khalpey is testing the abilities of the amniotic patch at the University of Arizona Medical Center.

Fighting atrial defibrillation is personal for Dr. Khalpey because it was the cause of his father’s death. He dedicates his research to his father in hopes that he can make a difference in preventing the post-surgery side effect.

Dr. Khalpey’s research includes using an amniotic patch and placing it directly onto the heart.

Dr. Zain Khalpey places the amniotic patch onto the heart of a cardiac patient at the University of Arizona Medical Center.
Dr. Zain Khalpey places the amniotic patch onto the heart of a cardiac patient at the University of Arizona Medical Center.

“We started putting it on mice and found that when we gave the mice heart attacks that they had preserved their heart muscle,” Dr. Khalpey said.

With the research progressing, Dr. Khalpey conducted a clinical trial and cardiac patients are already 90 days free of atrial fibrillation.

Dr. Khalpey hopes to further his on the amniotic patch as early as December with the anticipated $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Health.

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Natalie J. Sanchez is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News Service, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at 8natale9@email.arizona.edu

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