New Technology Helps Detect Irregular Heart Beats

New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger

Patients with cardiac arrhythmias are spending less time in St. Mary's cath lab.

Normally, a sequence of carefully timed nerve impulses makes the chambers of the heart pump in an orderly way. But those impulses can become chaotic, and it's up to an electrophysiologist to find out why.

Dr. Muhammad Akram used to have to run a catheter up to the heart and wait for an irregular beat. Then, guided by x-ray, he would have to move the catheter millimeter by millimeter to find the trouble spot.

"That's very time consuming," states Dr. Akram. "Sometimes it goes up to six hours. Sometimes up to

Even after all of that time, it didn't always work.

The ESI Ensite 3000 is changing all that. Now, using a multi-electrode catheter, Dr. Akram records electrical impulses from more than 3,000 points within the heart chamber, without ever touching the walls of the heart. The computer then calculates the cardiac conduction and displays a real-time, 3D map.

"We find the extra beat and the mapping system, and while it's looking in every direction, records this extra beat and tells us from where it is coming and where it goes and gives us a direction so we can trace with the help of this system," explains D

Now, while the patient is still on the table, Dr. Akram can do what's called radio-frequency ablation, essentially burning the trouble spots so they can't conduct electricity and cause the arrhythmias. The patient is diagnosed and treated in half the time.

This procedure is safer too. The less time the patient spends in the cath lab, the less time both the patient and staff are exposed to harmful x-rays.