Thanks to a new treatment for 'afib'—an irregular heartbeat—a
Totowa man is back to his busy life.
Climbing steps was exhausting for 72-year-old Tony Tomasello because of
the atrial fibrillation that affected his heart. But now a new treatment
has made a “night and day” difference.
Tony Tomasello had always been very active, so when a heart problem took
away his energy, the Totowa resident was determined to find a solution.
He discovered it at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, where he became the
hospital’s first patient to receive a groundbreaking treatment for
atrial fibrillation, or “Afib”— a fast, irregular heartbeat.
“It’s like night and day, the difference in how I feel,”
says Tomasello about the effects of the June 2015 procedure. “Now
I’m back playing golf. I can get back on my motorcycle.”
At 72, Tomasello still works as a project manager for a demolition firm—a
physically demanding job he enjoys after 40-plus years in the industry.
“Before, I couldn’t go up steps without being exhausted,”
says the husband, father and grandfather. “Now I climb ladders and
go up on roofs again.”
Traditional treatments for Afib have included anti-arrhythmic medications,
the use of electricity to “reset” the heart’s rhythm,
and ablation—a process that employs heat, cold or radiofrequency
energy to neutralize “hot spots” in tissue so that erratic
signals are made normal again. But Tomasello posed a special challenge
because of his enlarged heart.
In the past, there were no reliable treatments for Afib patients with other
cardiac conditions such as an enlarged heart or congestive heart failure.
Today, however, a procedure called the “Afib hybrid maze”
is giving them their lives back.
The treatment consists of two types of ablation. The first is performed
on the outside of the heart through a small incision below the ribs. The
second is done on the heart’s interior, using catheters threaded
through veins in the leg.
David Dobesh, M.D.
Saint Barnabas Medical Center is one of only a handful of East Coast centers
to offer this minimally invasive treatment, notes cardiologist David Dobesh,
M.D., who conducted Tomasello’s procedure with Frederic Sardari,
M.D., vice chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery.
When the heart chambers are enlarged as in Tomasello’s case, explains
Dr. Dobesh, more areas require ablation, including some that are more
accessible from the outside. “Previously, ablation on the outside
of the heart required opening the chest or collapsing the lungs,”
he says. “Today we can go in through a small, laparoscopic incision
and use a tiny camera to accurately direct the therapy.”
Tomasello is grateful for the team at Saint Barnabas—including his
daughter Nicole, a nurse at the hospital, who first suggested he go there.
“It’s a step above anything else in this area,” he says.
“The attitude of every staff member is incredible. They genuinely
care about you.”
To find out more about cardiac services available at Saint Barnabas Medical
Center, please call 973.322.5244 or visit