Teen receives new beat on life with precision heart surgery

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- For any parent, learning that your child needs heart surgery is frightening. But thanks to advances in modern medicine and technologies, procedures have become more routine, without the need for invasive incisions. February happens to be heart month, and one local family has something to be thankful for.

Riley Zinnert, 14, wanted to be on her school's track team.

"I've always liked to run," Riley said.

But during a routine sports physical, an abnormal rhythm was discovered in her heart.

"I could hear my heart rapidly beating in my chest which really scared me, but I convinced myself that it was normal," she explained.

After being referred to Texas Children's Hospital, Dr. Christina Miyake diagnosed Riley with ventricular tachycardia, a condition in which the lower chambers of the heartbeat a lot faster and out of sync with the upper part of the heart.

"Hearing that about your child, you're never prepared for it," said her father, Ryan.

Ryan, along with the rest of the family, were given a choice.

"Lifelong medication, or we can get it fixed and move on with the rest of our life," Ryan said.

Heart surgery was the other choice.

"I was definitely scared about it," Riley said.

On November 9, she underwent an ablation in the cardiac catheterization lab at Texas Children's.

Director of the Arrhythmia and Pacing Service Dr. Jeffrey Kim says the success rate for this procedure is around 95 percent.

"Through a small poke in the leg, we can put a catheter in the heart that could find the source of the abnormal rhythm and place a small lesion, usually a small burn that allows you to get rid of that focus of abnormal rhythm," Dr. Kim said.

The procedure is performed remotely with the use of high powered magnets.

"So we can precisely move these catheters where we want them to be," Dr. Kim explained. "And once we find that spot that we want, we can link that catheter to the heart, so even while it's beating it stays very precise in its location and delivers that energy, that burn to potentially get rid of abnormal rhythm."

The procedure was a success and just a few weeks ago, Riley was able to return to the track. Her heart has been beating normally and she's feeling great.
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