New catheter improves outcomes for abnormal heart beat
July 30, 2014 | Jacksonville, FL
A new catheter being used by cardiologists at Baptist Heart Specialists is helping patients who have an abnormal heart rhythm.
The THERMOCOOL® SmartTOUCH ™ Catheter is used for ablation procedures for patients such as those suffering from atrial fibrillation (Afib). Cardiac electrophysiologists at Baptist Heart Specialists were the first in the Jacksonville area to start using the new catheter this past spring, according to Biosense Webster, which develops the catheter.
About 40 cases have since been performed at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville.
Used for complex cardiac ablation, the catheter helps to improve patient outcomes, increase safety and reduce fluoroscopy or radiation exposure. The new technology enables doctors to accurately control the amount of contact force applied to the heart wall during radiofrequency catheter ablation procedures.
An ablation cures the abnormal heart rhythm by destroying certain heart tissues that cause the irregular rhythm. During a minimally invasive catheter ablation procedure, doctors insert a therapeutic catheter through a small incision in the groin where it is then directed up to the heart through a blood vessel. Once it reaches the left upper chamber of the heart, the catheter delivers radiofrequency energy to the heart wall to create lesions that block faulty electrical impulses that can cause heart rhythm disorders.
“The SmartTOUCH is an improvement on the regular THERMOCOOL catheter because of the sensor at the tip that allows us to know exactly how much pressure we are using inside of the heart while we are doing the ablation,” said Scott Lee, MD, a cardiologist and cardiac electrophysiologist with Baptist Heart Specialists, who uses the new catheter along with his fellow cardiac electrophysiologists, Venkata Sagi, MD, and Chris Ruisi, MD.
“We now know if we are pushing too hard, barely or not enough,” Dr. Lee added. “It gives us a lot of information on how good our contact is with the heart tissue so our ablations or burns will be more thorough.” Prior to the new catheter, Dr. Lee said it was more difficult to know if too much pressure was being placed onto the heart, which could cause a hole or bleeding.
“With this new catheter, we can be more precise,” Dr. Lee said. “Overall, the procedure is safer, more thorough and sometimes quicker.”
Abnormal heart rhythms can make people very uncomfortable and susceptible to blood clots and strokes, Dr. Lee said. “They are very miserable with their symptoms. Their heart is racing fast all the time,” Dr. Lee said. An estimated three million Americans suffer from Afib, a progressive disease that increases in severity and frequency if left untreated, and can lead to chronic fatigue, congestive heart failure and stroke. While most Afib patients today are treated with medication, about half of patients are not able to control their abnormal heart rhythm with medication or find they cannot tolerate the side effects.
Joy Seiler, 55, of Jacksonville, had a heart ablation procedure in May. Dr. Sagi used the new SmartTOUCH catheter to repair her irregular heart beat. She was first diagnosed two years ago and placed on medication. But this year her symptoms became worse and by April her irregular heart beat was occurring for four or five hours every day.
“It would beat faster and then more irregularly and I would have shortness of breath and get lightheaded,” Seiler said. At times, her symptoms would happen when she was driving.
“It was getting very scary. I had to do something or something was going to happen to me,” she said.
She and her husband also own a construction business and she wasn’t able to go out as often to do estimates for remodeling jobs. But since the procedure in May, she hasn’t had any symptoms.
“I’ve been feeling fantastic,” Seiler said. “I’m praying it stays that way. I’m relaxing now and getting on with my life and it feels good.”