Date: 5/7/2007

New technology at St. Mary Medical Center maps out bright future for AFIB patients

HOBART — Move over IMAX! There is another heart-stopping visual experience in the region! Imaging and computer-generated road mapping unite as new technology that offers new hope for patients who experience heart rhythm disturbances.

Electrophysiologists at St. Mary Medical Center who treat patients for electrical malfunctions of the heart are first to use the new technology, called CartoMerge™ Image Integration Module. Physicians are now able to create 3-D maps of the heart’s inner chambers with CT (Computed Tomography) images. By merging CT scans with a computer generated CARTO™ XP System 3-D map, electrophysiologists have a more precise view than ever before of the inside chambers of the heart, allowing them to accurately locate, map, and eliminate arrhythmias through a procedure called catheter ablation.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in the upper chambers of the heart caused by electrical malfunction or mixed signals. Patients with the condition experience a rapid, uneven heartbeat. Those with an irregular and fast heartbeats may have symptoms that include dizziness or lightheadedness; palpitations or fluttering in the chest; sensations of a racing heartbeat or shortness of breath. Some 2.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, and more than 90,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can result in serious health conditions, including stroke.

Patients who will benefit from this new technology are those with atrial fibrillation and medication has been ineffective or its side effects too debilitating.

Areas of tissue around the lung veins (pulmonary veins) are the focal point during a catheter ablation - a procedure where energy destroys the problem tissue inside the heart, says Mark Dixon, D.O., medical director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology department at St. Mary Medical Center. However, the layout of those veins varies greatly patient to patient.

With the CARTOMERGE™ Module physicians use an image from a CT scan and transfer it to the CARTO™ XP System workstation, where they are able to view the pulmonary veins like never before, Dixon said.

“In the past, the computer would draw what was a hollow tube as the inside of the vein. Now, we see an exact definition of the patient’s anatomy,” Dixon said. “We can look at the screen and it’s a real-time road map that leads straight to the affected atrial tissue and eliminates guesswork.

“It’s wonderful technology,” said Raghuram Dasari, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist at St. Mary’s who has extensive experience with ablations using the CARTO system. “It makes ablation procedures safer for our patients, enhances our visualization making it more efficient, quicker, and, improving our success rate.”

Scott Kaufman, DO, also a cardiac electrophysiologist at St. Mary’s, believes the new technology also will greatly enhance similar procedures in patients with certain types of congenital heart disease, offering improved visualization to the inner chambers of the heart.

The EP Lab of St. Mary Medical Center participates in numerous clinical investigations that deal with the electrical system of the heart. Many of the studies research new devices such as defibrillators and leads that will be utilized in the future to treat life-threatening arrhythmias. One such recent study has led to the availability of remote home monitoring systems for defibrillator patients. Other studies involve the use of new technology in new ways to treat congestive heart failure. Patients interested in these studies should contact their cardiologist for a referral to the EP Lab.