Pioneering cardiologist saves the day for pregnant mom and her twins

2013-05-09 16:15:46 by Laurie Schueler, Media Relations Specialist, as posted on the blog.

Learning you're pregnant with identical twins can make any 27-year-old's heart pound a little quicker. But Meredith Stone, of Strongsville, knew it had to be caused by something more than first pregnancy jitters.

When she was 22 weeks, her heart seemed to race all the time, even in her sleep. She and her husband, Matt, knew they had to look into it.

They started with her OB doctor, who referred her to Cleveland Clinic cardiologists Thomas Toulisiak and Robert Mosteller.

During her echocardiogram, her heart was racing so fast, the technician had trouble getting the data and measurements they needed. Not surprisingly, she was admitted to Fairview Hospital in Cleveland for observation.

She was diagnosed with supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). SVT is a rapid heart rate that involves the upper and lower heart chambers.

"They said it would’ve been difficult to sustain the pregnancy if it wasn't controlled," said Meredith, a senior software engineer with ViewRay. "And SVT could cause long-term heart damage."

Her doctors tried a couple of medications to see if they could calm her racing heart, but nothing worked. The best option would be to undergo a heart ablation procedure.

"As a person who works in the medical imaging and radiology field, I knew that the cath procedure would use X-ray fluoroscopy to guide the catheter to the heart," said Meredith. "I knew all that exposure to X-rays wasn't going to be good for the pregnancy."

That's when Dr. Mosteller recommended a colleague at Akron Children's Hospital, ­ Dr. John Clark, who pioneered the radiation-free ablation procedure.

Dr. Clark and his team started using a 3-D mapping system in 2003. It lets Dr. Clark see the catheter continually in real time, without the use of radiation.

Since 2006, almost all catheter ablation procedures at Akron Children’s are radiation-free.

“That’s one of the unique opportunities at Akron Children’s,” said Dr. Clark. “We’re one of only two hospitals in the country that can perform an ablation without any fluoroscopy.”

Meredith was sent home to rest on her sofa for the weekend and arrived at Akron Children's Hospital the following Monday, June 11, for the procedure.

"It was a wonderful experience," said Meredith, "Everyone was incredibly kind and caring. I truly felt everyone was looking out for my comfort and well being."

Since she was pregnant, Meredith underwent the 4-hour procedure without sedation.

"It felt weird," she said. "After 3 or 4 hours, it got pretty uncomfortable. Imagine lying on your back, pregnant with twins, for 4 hours. But Dr. Clark was very motivating and kind. He talked to me the whole time and he helped motivate me to get through it."

Meredith has not had an episode since.

"I feel so much better," she said. "I didn't realize how horrible that was making me feel. I just attributed feeling tired all the time to being pregnant with twins. But I think it was actually the heart condition that was making me feel like that. I feel great now.”

The babies, Luciella and Alina, were born via C-section on Sept. 6 at 35 weeks gestation.

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