Date: 4/30/2008

Advanced technology at Community Healthcare System hospitals helps steady the heartbeat

HOBART — Cubs second baseman Mark DeRosa and hundreds of other people like him who have suffered from an irregular heartbeat opt for a surgical procedure, called catheter ablation, to prevent the non-life threatening condition from happening once and for all. A recognized leader in the treatment of rhythm disturbances of the heart, St. Mary Medical Center and Community Hospital EP Labs are among only small percentage of hospitals in the United States to implement CARTOSOUND™ imaging technology. The new system, CartoSound™ Image Integration module with SoundStar™ 3D Catheter, enables electrophysiologists to eliminate more complex cardiac arrhythmias in patients than ever before and reduce their pre-procedure imaging sessions as well as overall procedure times.

Physicians are now able to view — in real time — 3-D maps of the heart’s inner chambers. By merging ultrasound technology with a computer generated CARTO™ XP EP Navigation System 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 caused by electrical malfunction or mixed signals in the upper chambers of the heart. 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 who are being treated with medication that 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, said Mark Dixon, D.O., medical director of the Cardiac Electrophysiology department at St. Mary Medical Center, also on staff at Community Hospital in Munster. However, the layout of those veins varies greatly patient-to-patient.

With the CARTOSOUND™ Module, physicians use a real-time ultrasound image of the inside chambers of the heart to view the pulmonary veins and then ablate tissue that causes an arrhythmia with the SoundStar 3D Catheter, using a path created by the CARTO™ XP mapping system, 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, M.D., a cardiac electrophysiologist on staff at St. Mary Medical Center and Community Hospital 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.”

The EP Labs of Community Healthcare System: Community Hospital in Munster; St. Catherine Hospital in East Chicago and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart participate 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 or visit our Web site at for more information.