Medical school can be stressful. Who hasn't felt their heart race before an important exam? So when 31-year-old medical student Kristen Kallestad noticed her heartbeat “started feeling strange,” she tried to ignore it. But the bothersome symptoms got progressively worse. “It was a constant thumping,” she recalls.
“It made it very hard to do anything,” Kristen says. “My husband and I had led a very active life, but since my heart was working so hard, I was constantly tired. I basically became a couch potato.”
To determine the problem, Kristen wore a Holter monitor, which is a portable device used to record heart rhythm for 24 hours. After wearing the device for one day, Kristen’s doctors at Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital discovered the problem.
“The results showed every fourth beat was abnormal,” says Park Nicollet electrophysiologist Jay Simonson, MD. “It’s common for people to have about 100 irregular heartbeats a day – Kristen had more than 20,000.” She was diagnosed with premature ventricular contractions, or PVCs.
The road to normal
To get Kristen back to her usual self, Dr. Simonson performed a procedure called catheter ablation. “During the ablation, we use amazing, three-dimensional mapping technology to see inside the heart,” Dr. Simonson explains. “I thread small wires into the heart, then cauterize a small area of tissue to destroy the tiny focus of cells causing the problem.”
Electrophysiologists at Park Nicollet perform hundreds of ablations a year. For Kristen, it changed her life.
“As soon as I woke up, I knew I was cured,” said Kristen. “Within three days I had tons of energy – the most I’d felt in a year. I don’t normally jog with my dog, but I did that day, simply because I could."
"I generally tell patients to take it easy for a week,” Dr. Simonson says. “But I’m glad she felt great so quickly. It really is rewarding to get patients back to their lives.
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