Starting at age 8, Dalton occasionally complained to his parents that “my heart’s beating really fast.” Over time, the episodes began to occur more often, accompanied by weakness, clammy palms and a faint feeling. Dalton’s parents sought medical help, but despite repeated testing nothing unusual turned up. So, despite evaluations by his pediatrician and a cardiologist, Dalton had no diagnosis.
“They speculated about dehydration and anxiety,” recalled Dalton’s mother, Marilyn. “But I had seen it happening. I knew something was wrong.” Thankfully, at age 14, Dalton had an episode of arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) while wearing a mobile heart monitor for the third time. The device recorded Dalton’s heartbeat going from 80 to 230 beats per minute. That’s when the family was referred to Nemours Cardiac Center.
Nemours pediatric cardiologist Joel Temple, MD reassured the family that while arrhythmia is not a serious condition, it is unpredictable. He recommended cardiac ablation, a procedure where catheters are inserted into blood vessels to reach the heart. Doctors then apply extreme heat or cold through the catheters to destroy the source of the irregular heartbeat.
First, Dr. Temple employed computer-based medical technology to display a 3-D anatomical model of Dalton’s heart and electrical information about the heart. The technology allowed him to locate anatomical landmarks, visualize the pattern of the arrhythmia, and place the catheters.
Dalton’s type of arrhythmia, referred to as "reentry" arrhythmia, occurs when the electrical signal that causes the heart to contract gets stuck in a loop, going around and around like a toy car on a race track. Catheter ablation consisted of severing the "circuit," eliminating the potential for tachycardia.
Dalton successfully underwent ablation in 2009. The arrhythmia is gone and at 16 he is now healthy and free to participate in any and as much activity as he would like. “Nemours Cardiac Center was wonderful. Dr. Temple and the staff were very professional and focused on making sure we had a good experience. We highly recommend Nemours to everyone,” Dalton’s mother, Marilyn says.