New device at Overlake Hospital helps cure atrial fibrillation

Overlake Hospital Medical Center’s electrophysiology program is using new pressure feedback technology to increase success rates in a procedure to cure atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common type of heart arrhythmia and currently affects 2.5 million American adults. In a heart suffering from atrial fibrillation, irregular electrical signals are produced in the heart, creating a fast or irregular heartbeat.

In the 1990s Doctor Michael Haissaguerre and his team identified electrical signals from the pulmonary veins as the cause of atrial fibrillation. Haissaguerre then originated the technique of isolating signals from the pulmonary veins as a cure.

This procedure is now commonly conducted surgically by a catheter device inserted up an artery in the leg which allows the surgeon to map the interior of the heart. After this is completed, the surgeon uses radio frequency to create lesions around the pulmonary vein, creating a barrier to unwanted electrical signals. This surgery provides a less invasive alternative to an open-heart procedure.

To perform this procedure accurately, surgeons need to apply the perfect amount of pressure with the tip of the catheter on the walls of the heart. If too little pressure is applied lesions will not form effectively and if too much pressure is applied the tissue could be perforated. Previously surgeons had to perform this procedure somewhat blind in terms of the pressure applied, causing a 10 to 20 percent error rate where surgeons applied too little pressure.

Today, Overlake is the first hospital to use the ThermoCool SmartTouch, a catheter that provides computer feedback on the amount of pressure being applied during atrial fibrillation procedures. According to the Bellevue Reporter, before the introduction of the TermoCool SmartTouch, surgeons with Overlake had been able to achieve an 80 to 90 percent success rate of non-recurrence in patients. The new catheter improves accuracy in the amount of pressure applied and has the ability to create 3D maps of the interior of the heart.

Earlier this month, Overlake Hospital demoed the new technology for reporters. Check out Daniel Nash’s piece from Monday’s Bellevue Reporter here!