Scripps and Kaiser Permanente Physicians Among First in United States to Give Irregular Heart Rhythms the Deep Freeze

Innovative cryoablation technology used to treat common atrial fibrillation

Cryoablation 600 × 375

Physicians from Scripps Health and Kaiser Permanente have teamed up to be the first in San Diego to use a cryoablation system to treat atrial fibrillation, a serious heart rhythm disorder that affects millions of Americans.

Unlike traditional ablation treatments that use radiofrequency, or heat, to destroy faulty electrical circuits in the heart, this newly FDA approved freezing technology allows the catheter to adhere to the tissue during ablation, allowing for greater catheter stability.

Dr. Doug Gibson, Scripps Clinic, and Dr. Brant Liu, Kaiser Permanente, recently led the effort that resulted in the first successful procedure in San Diego at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla using Medtronic’s Arctic Front Cardiac CryoAblation Catheter System. Scripps is the exclusive provider of cardiac surgery, interventional cardiology and electrophysiology to the more than 515,000 Kaiser Permanente members across San Diego County.

“We have found that using cold, rather than heat, may minimize the risk of damaging healthy heart tissue and other structures surrounding the heart,” said Dr. Gibson. “The potential advantages of cryoablation are fewer complications, less radiation exposure, and less discomfort for the patient.”

About Cryoablation

During the minimally invasive procedure, a thin flexible tube with a balloon on the end, called a balloon catheter, is inserted into a vein in the groin and then threaded up to the location of the damaged heart tissue that is triggering an irregular heartbeat. The balloon is filled with liquid coolant that expands with gas and causes it to become very cold. The balloon freezes the nearby heart tissue, which neutralizes the abnormal heart muscle that causes atrial fibrillation. This procedure is an alternative to radiofrequency catheter ablation, which uses heat to burn the tissue that is causing the irregular beat.

To date, Arctic Front has been used to successfully treat more than 10,000 patients in 150 centers outside of the United States.

“Cryoablation gives patients peace of mind that their heart may be restored to an appropriate rhythm and they can resume their normal, daily activity following the treatment,” said Dr. Steven Higgins, director of electrophysiology and chairman of cardiology at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. “This technology is an extension of Scripps’ leadership in heart care and research as best exemplified by the Prebys Cardiovascular Institute currently under construction.”

The $456 million Prebys Cardiovascular Institute will be a center for innovation that will bring together top researchers, physicians and staff. The Institute will incorporate leading-edge wireless technologies and individualized medicine for the best in patient care when it opens in 2015. Annually, more than 55,000 patients receive their cardiovascular care from Scripps, making it San Diego County’s largest heart care provider. Scripps is the region’s only cardiovascular program consistently recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best in the country.

About Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common and one of the most undertreated heart rhythm disorders in America. Approximately 3 million Americans are estimated to have the disease, and about 40 percent don’t exhibit symptoms and may be under-diagnosed.

Half of all diagnosed atrial fibrillation patients fail drug therapy, and if left untreated patients have up to a five times higher risk of stroke and an increased chance of developing heart failure. Additionally, since atrial fibrillation is often age-related, as the U.S. population continues to grow older, the need for more effective treatment options is escalating.


Learn more about Scripps Health, a nonprofit integrated health system in San Diego, Calif.


Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and non-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, our mission is to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve 8.9 million members in nine states and the District of Columbia. Kaiser Permanente San Diego began serving San Diego in 1967, and currently provides care for more than 515,000 members throughout the county. Over 8,200 staff and more than 1,100 physicians care for our members at 24 medical facilities; Kaiser Permanente’s San Diego Medical Center, which has 392 licensed beds and a 78 bed Emergency Department; and Palomar Medical Center, our plan hospital in North County. To learn more, visit

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Lisa Ohmstede

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