New technology improves Jim’s abnormal heart beat

photo of patient Jim Marshall wearing an orange shirt and baseball cap standing on a golf course and carrying a golf bag on his shoulder

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.

“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.

Sr. Johns County resident Jim Marshall had a heart ablation procedure in 2014. Dr. Lee used the new SmartTOUCH™ catheter to repair his irregular heart beat, which had placed his retirement plans on hold.

Now, Jim is back to an active lifestyle of volunteering, golfing, church activities and discovering new restaurants with his wife and their friends.