New 3-D Technology for the Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation
For the first time, cardiologists have the capability of visualizing the exact source of cardiac atrial fibrillation. U.S. researchers have designed a new, three dimensional technology that is considered to be a breakthrough in the treatment of this heart condition which affects close to three million American citizens.
This new, innovative technology actually maps out the electrical signals of the heart in a three dimensional manner. It significantly improves the probability of eliminating this type of heart rhythm disorder when used with a procedure known as a catheter ablation. A study presented at the Heart Rhythm Society's National Scientific Sessions in May of 2013 confirmed these findings.
Electrical Misfiring of the Heart Leads to Irregular Beat
Electrical misfiring within the heart, associated with atrial fibrillation, causes an extremely irregular heartbeat within the upper left atrial chamber. While not all patients with atrial fibrillation experience symptoms, they can include the following:
- Rapid and/or irregular heartbeat
- Light-headedness and/or fainting
- Extreme tiredness
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest
If not treated, atrial fibrillation can result in the formation of blood clots as well as lead to stroke and/or heart failure. Atrial fibrillation patients are actually five times more likely to experience a stroke than others who do not suffer from the condition. The chances of developing atrial fibrillation increase with normal aging. The American Heart Association reports the median age of atrial fibrillation patients as 66.8 years in males and 74.6 years in the case of females.
3-D Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Enables Thousands to be Symptom Free
According to this study's lead researcher, previously serious cases of atrial fibrillation were usually treated by the creation of scar tissue within the upper cardiac chambers in an attempt to channel the irregular electrical signals that cause atrial fibrillation. The major advantage of this advanced technology is that cardiac specialists can readily see the origin of the electrical signals in 3-D.
In the past, cardiologists could map the heart in three dimensions in order to enhance the navigation of a catheter. However, this is the very first time that 3-D imaging technology has been used to specifically "map" the heart's electrical signals. With this information readily available, heart doctors can now "zero in" on the exact location of the misfiring. Then they can "ablate" that precise spot within the heart, significantly improving the overall ablation success rates in atrial fibrillation patients.
This 3-D technology effectively enables the treatment of literally thousands of patients, suffering from severe forms of atrial fibrillation, who were not considered to be good candidates for cardiac ablation procedures in the past. In 2012 to 2013, researchers utilized this 3-D mapping technology to treat 49 study participants. Comparisons were made to almost 200 other patients with similar cardiac conditions who were given conventional procedures over the course of the same time period.
All patients (average age 65.5 years) taking part in the research study had failed to respond to medications commonly used to treat atrial fibrillation plus 94% suffered from persistent atrial fibrillation. Thirty percent had also undergone traditional catheter ablations in the past. Approximately one year after having undergone a catheter ablation with the new 3-D procedure, almost 79% of subjects were free of atrial fibrillation symptoms. By comparison, just 47.4% of those who received a traditional type of ablation procedure were still symptom free.
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